eli5: why does tickling ourself not work but works when other people do it?


eli5: why does tickling ourself not work but works when other people do it?

In: Biology

This is a myth. Some people are able to tickle themselves. Especially if it’s an area with a large amount of nerves. Someone with sensitive feet might be able to tickle themselves with a feather.

You can absolutely tickle yourself but when you do your brain is expecting it and prepares for it by dulling the signals. When someone else does it, even if you know it’s going to happen you reaction is more intense, which could also possibly be amplified by anticipation.

This requires agreement on what exactly you mean for tickling to “work.” If you mean the stress response of having a very sensitive area of your body stimulated by someone else against your will, or at the very least outside of your own voluntary control, and reflexively trying to escape, then I think that explains it right there. If you mean feeling a neutral to not particularly pleasant tactile sensation when a very sensitive high-nerve-ending area is stimulated lightly and repeatedly, then the only reason that wouldn’t “work” on yourself is if you had nerve problems.

I just reached down and tickled the sole of my foot. I planned to do it and knew it was happening. It didn’t feel particularly great or bad, and I stopped. It didn’t feel like nothing, but it was not a stressful experience.

The main element of what I believe you mean by tickling ‘working’ is the stress response caused by the experience being out of one’s voluntary control, and the instinctive reflex to protect highly sensitive areas of the body.