While there are those who enjoy being tickled, some of us find it annoying, awkward, and uncomfortable. Some people have an almost violent reaction, such as kicking when their foot is tickled.
Keep reading to learn more about the ticklish response, including why some people are more ticklish than others, and how to stop being so ticklish.
According to Dr. Emily Grossman of The Royal Institution, there’s a technique you can use to reduce the tickle response. When someone attempts to tickle you, put your hand on their hand.
Grossman suggests that this action will help your brain better predict the sensation of being tickled, and help you suppress your tickle response.
According to Illinois State University, your brain typically focuses on new things in your environment. Familiar things, such as a common action that you’ve done in the past, is seen by your brain as unnecessary information.
So, your brain predicts what you’ll feel when you make a common action. According to a
Your brain uses previous experiences to predict sensory responses
When you perform a common action, your brain uses the efference copy to predict sensory reaction. If the action happens as expected — meaning the efference copy and the sensory information are matched — additional sensory information doesn’t reach the brain.
If you attempt to tickle yourself, you have an expectation of what’ll occur when you touch yourself. When the expectation matches the efference copy, the sensation of being tickled doesn’t reach the brain, and you have no reaction.
Being tickled by another person
When we’re being tickled by someone else, we don’t have an efference copy because we’re reacting as opposed to taking action. The sensation of being tickled reaches the brain.
Managing the reaction to tickling
Grossman’s technique of putting your hand on the hand of the tickler uses the concept of being unable to tickle yourself to manage your reaction to tickling.
While there’s no consensus on why, exactly, humans react to tickling the way we do, there are several theories for why people are ticklish.
Some of these theories revolve around the ticklish sensation being:
- an alert to danger that becomes funny when we realize that it’s another person
- a learned behavior that promotes familial and social bonding.
- a defensive reflex to protect vulnerable areas, such as the armpits, neck, ribs, and inner thighs
- a protective reaction to avoid insect or worm infestations
Being ticklish is more complex than you might think. Moreover, all aspects of the ticklish response aren’t fully understood by the scientific community.
Although there’s limited clinical research on how to stop being ticklish, one technique you might try is this: When you’re approached by a person who’s planning to tickle you, place your hand on the hand they’ll be using for tickling. This action may help suppress your tickle response.