You can't tickle yourself into laughter

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by water, Oct 14, 2005.

  1. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    You can't tickle yourself into laughter

    How come?

    It seems that the relation between tickling and laughter is *conditioned* in a particular way, and is not a necessary causal relation.

    It seems that when tickled, people tend to laugh only if they are tickled by someone they like, or if they like the situation.

    Yet, strikingly, if you tickle yourself, you do not laugh. You can clearly feel the sensation of tickling, but it seems neutral.

    So how come we can't make ourselves laugh by tickling ourselves, while if someone else tickles us, we tend to laugh?
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  3. john smith Tongue in cheek Registered Senior Member

    Actually you can if youv been smoking enough :m: , i would know

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    On a serious note, i dont really know, perhaps its because when somone else is doing the tickeling we have no control over it, which in turn takes us by suprise, and our immediate reaction is to laugh, as it tickles. Maybe if we were to take away the 'shock' value i.e. tickling ourselves then our reaction is not one of laughter.
    A very very good thread question, i however do not hold the answer

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  5. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    I always thought it had something to do with the surprise factor as well.
    Then again, you can't tickle yourself with a stick, either, and that should be pretty much the same effect as someone else's hand doing the tickling.
    It's got to be emotional.
    I agree with john smith. A damned good question.
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  7. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    It seems that tickling-and-laughing is entirely in the mind.
  8. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Get someone laughing and in the ticklish mood, and just pretending you are going to tickle will often have them in fits.
  9. Capo Crimini The Deranged Norwegian Registered Senior Member

    I've never really thought about this question. I go crazy whenever I get tickled by someone, but it's pretty dull when I try to tickle myself.
  10. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

    It's thought because the cerebellum filters out self movements. As an erotic aside, some women find masturbation to be a similar experience to this self-tickling. I.e. they need an other to stimulate them.

    This is a common thing and is quite useful for the organism. If self-movements weren't filtered out, you'd be overwhelmed with stimulations from the slightest movements. All day long you'd be receiving stimulation until your system would be overloaded.

    Note. You do receive the stimulation, it's not entirely removed, it's merely not amplified in the way that the touching by an other is.

    There have been experiments where people have tried tickling themselves with tools, but even these tools are intererpreted in the mind as self and the tickling is cancelled out, but if the tool is sophisticated enough to have a form of delay between the will to move from you and the actual move by the tool... then tickling ensues.

    Well. Of course they are. Where else would they be? In your feet?

    Consider this scenario. You've just been raped. Your rapist tickles you.

    Do you laugh?
  11. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    Alright. But this amplification is not universal or automatic -- sometimes being tickled results in laughter, and sometimes it doesn't.

    No, the point is that the relation between tickling and laughter is conditioned, not automatic.

    I said earlier:

  12. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

    Of course.
    Laughter is a social event. The stimulation that leads to laughter which we call tickling is also a social event. It's a social bonding behavior. It is important to us in this context. In the event of social bonding taking place (which is interpreted by the brain as taking place) then the stimulus is amplified within the brain and routed to the emotional centers in the basal ganglia (to give us the good feelings) and to the anterior cingulate cortex (from which primitive call type behavior originates).

    If the situation is inappropriate to social bonding (as interpreted by the brain) then this routing doesn't take place. In fact, the effect is usually just the opposite. Inappropriate tickling is a chilling rather than a neutral experience.

    Now. The topic is actually self-tickling and not inappropriate tickling and self-tickling is processed out by another method. As I've said, the cerebellum routinely diminishes sensations brought about by self-movement. This is a necessary function to prevent sensory overload. Only the important sensations make it through the network to receive the highest levels of attention by your conscious being.

    By the way, speaking of primitive call-type behavior. This always reminds me of one of Jane Goodal's chimps. This chimp was low on the heirarchy and therefore was one of the last to receive food whenever any was found. Now, chimps spread out to look for food and are expected to call back to the troop when any is found. Well, this chimp stumbled across one of Goodal's banana stashes (very unprofessional of her, by the way). So. It starts to make the found food call. But, and here's the kicker, it doesn't want to. It wants to eat the food itself because it knows once the troop shows up it's going to get kicked to the curb and have to wait his turn. However, he's unable to stop the food call as its hardwired into his neural responses. He's not in conscious control of this call. So, since he can't stop, he tries to muffle the sound with his hands instead.

    I've always been fascinated by this split personality type behavior between primitive instincts and conscious control. This split is inherent in human behavior and is crucial to understanding our awareness of the world around us. (I'm sure I've told you this story before, Water, but perhaps some others haven't heard it.)

    Now. What does this have to do with laughter? Primitive calls originate not from the areas of the brain which process human language (Broca's area, Wernicke's area, etc...) but from the anterior cingulate gyruss (buried inside the brain. Just above the corpus callosum. The cingulate gyruss was one of the first areas of cortex to develop in mammals.) Calls emanating from the cingulate gyruss are not within our fully conscious control. Laughter fits this bill. All behaviors that are 'contagious' are, in root, instinctual. The group complies with the instinctual patterns embedded within. The group laughs and so must you.

    Curse words and certain other words that are extremely common and patterned also originate from this area. This is why stroke victims are still able to curse...

    Alright. Have I rambled far enough away from topic yet?

    Yes. Conditioned. You could call it that. The brain has to learn what is an appropriate environment to translate the tickling into the positive social response called laughter.

    By the way, did you know that there's a form of narcolepsy that causes a person to go unconscious if they laugh? True. Very weird stuff. Always reminds me of those fainting goats, except the goats remain fully conscious and only experience muscular spasms...
  13. Laughterman Registered Member

    A discussion of laughter would not be complete without an examination of the laughter inducing phenomenon we call tickling. If we cannot induce laughter by tickling ourselves it is obvious that laughter is a response to being touched by someone or something else. It would be quite disruptive if every time our hands accidentally brushed our bodies we drew back in fright and we have enough body maps in the brain (both in the cortex and cerebellum) to tell us when two parts of our body are in contact, and such contacts are ignored. We can also detect the difference between touching and being touched - the difference between moving part of our bodies on a foreign object and foreign objects moving on our bodies. Anything moving on our bodies is probably alive and thus a potential danger. One only has to have an insect running about under the bed sheets to know how quickly and emotively we react to being touched in a certain way.

    Not everyone is ticklish, but those who are have little conscious control over their reaction to being tickled. Laughter induced by tickling is indicative of a conflict between our emotive system, which is sending out danger signals, and our appreciation that no threat to our organism exists.

    The fact that being tickled on the bottom of the feet and the ribs elicits the most vigorous response suggests that these areas were particularly vulnerable in our primate ancestors. A rapid withdrawal of the foot from an unseen, sharp object, or an animal, on the ground would minimize damage or the effect of a sting or bite. The fear reaction of all primates to snakes, and their specific warning calls that signal a snake's presence, suggests a long history of primate predation by large snakes: some writers even view the relationship between primates and snakes as being of prime importance in our evolution (Isbell, L.2006). Primates are particularly vulnerable to large, night hunting, constrictor snakes, and as constrictors target the chest area to prevent their prey breathing, a rapid reflex response to being touched in this area would have been of significant survival value to our ape ancestors.
    Significantly, the bottom of the feet, for most of the time, and the whole of the body on moonless nights, cannot be seen, and so sight is useless in immediately determining the source of the contact so that the appropriate action can be taken. In fact , any cognitive interference with the reflex response could prove to be fatal.

    When dealing with snake predators silently hunting in the dark a primate cannot resort to its senses of sight and hearing and it is probable that the system that immediately responds to particular types of touching functions independently of the other senses. The immediate response to tickling is a form of startle, an instantaneous escape reflex that gives rise to a secondary brain mediated fear response. This explains why, even though people can see what or who is tickling them - friend, stranger or machine - the reaction is the same.

    What an individual hears or sees during a bout of tickling cannot directly lead to the inhibition of the tickle response. However, the reality of the situation is registered, and the conflict between the tickle response and the cognitive grasp of the situation leads to the disinhibition of laughter. Displacement activities inhibit redundant motivations, but in the case of tickling there is a problem as every new movement of the fingers on a person's body rekindles the response and a continual cycle of motivation (fear), disinhibition (of the laughter process) and inhibition (of fear), takes place.

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