• Question: Why do we laugh when get tickled? I know why it tickles, but why does it make us laugh, and why do only some people laugh but still feel the tickling?

    Asked by nijjinoodles to Anil, Blanka, Cees, Emma, Mike on 25 Jun 2012.
    • Photo: Blanka Sengerova

      Blanka Sengerova answered on 25 Jun 2012:

      Tickling is likely to be the result of stimulation of receptor cells in the skin, which leads to neurons firing and relaying the message to the brain.

      Presumably some areas of the body have more of these receptors so you are more ticklish there than elsewhere and the same thing might explain why people are ticklish to a different extent.

      Did you know you can’t tickle yourself because the brain links the movement of your own arm/hand/finger to stimulation coming from cells and numbs the response to this stimulus because it “knows” you are causing it?

    • Photo: Michael Cook

      Michael Cook answered on 29 Jun 2012:

      Laughing itself is a bit of a mystery to us. We’re not the only animal that laughs, for instance, so it’s not purely human. But one theory is that it might be a social thing; for instance, laughing can make other people laugh (we say laughter is ‘infectious’, and people laugh at a comedy much less if they are watching it alone). It’s a way of communicating how we feel to each other without language – which is why it goes back beyond humans to animals like apes!

    • Photo: Emma Trantham

      Emma Trantham answered on 2 Jul 2012:

      I laugh lots when I get tickled. In fact, just knowing I’m about to be tickled will make me laugh – no one needs to have even touched me yet!

      Equally, if someone I didn’t trust tried to tickle me I know that I wouldn’t laugh.

      So I don’t think the laughter is just about the neurons sending messages but also incorporates the social aspect that Mike was talking about.