Why does it feel good when others touch or massage us but not when we do it to ourselves?

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When someone massages my neck or even just runs a finger across my skin it feels pleasant, but doing the same things to myself basically yields no sensation. I even remember going to the doctor as a child and enjoying the feeling of getting my ears checked with whatever the tool is they use for it, or the feeling when my grandma would comb through my hair to check for lice. Again doing it myself doesn’t feel nearly as good even though it’s the same physical movements. Why?

In: Biology

10 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s the same reason you can’t tickle yourself. The body knows what to expect when you do something to yourself. You can’t ever have the element of surprise because you’re the one in control of your hand.

Also, we’re social creatures at our core. We like the feeling of touching each other, it’s a way of bonding. There’s something that feels just that little bit extra good when someone does something for you.

Anonymous 0 Comments

One theory that matches up well with experience and experimental data is that our brains constantly predict what’s happening with our bodies to minimize “surprisal” – basically, constantly trying to match up what it thinks with reality. In that process it can predict what your hand will do to your skin AND what your skin will feel when it happens. And because it knows what will happen, it’s already “priced into” the experience, and you don’t feel much. It’s like expecting to finish third in a race and then finishing third; it’s a blah experience. This is why we can’t tickle ourselves, either. The best book for more info is Surfing Uncertainty (edited to correct title).
Fun fact: there are mental illnesses where this predictive mechanism is faulty, so some people (I think schizophrenics?) can tickle themselves.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Your brain, to a degree, blocks the feeling of a touch it can perfectly predict. We know this because researchers got people to try to tickle themselves with a joystick controlled robot arm. When there was no delay between the movement of the joystick and the arm people weren’t able to tickle themselves, but if they added a small amount of delay so the movements weren’t perfectly synced up they suddenly could tickle themselves.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Specifically massage also suffers because for example massaging your own neck requires using muscles in and around that area which makes it less effective since you are massaging tense muscles instead of relaxed ones.

Anonymous 0 Comments

What everyone else has said about your body predicting your own touch is well and good, but there’s also the fact that you probably don’t know how to massage (yourself or others) very well. I’m a former massage therapist and I can absolutely massage myself to good effect as I know what needs to be done where, but it is difficult for parts of my body I can’t properly reach or apply pressure to.

Anonymous 0 Comments

One element of this is that we evolved to form bonds with other members of our species: that’s how we ensured our safety and survival.

We are born helpless and thus have strong, hard-wired drive to seek proximity to others through physical touch: the only way the helpless infant can ensure survival. Even as adults, we ensured survival by living in groups, working as tribes rather than as individuals, again evolving the preference for proximity to others and the drive to form bonds.

This survival instinct, the preference to have skin-to-skin contact, lives on in our experience of others’ touch being comforting or pleasurable.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s your monkey brain! (Or specifically Ape.) Primates groom each other as a form of social bonding. It is a very comfortable experience to be groomed for any Great Apes (which includes Humans!)

Grooming is the most primordial way of showing you care/are cared for.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Exactly why biting your tongue on accident hurts like a btch, but when you do it on purpose it doesnt.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’ve always heard that this is because you have more nerves in your fingers than other parts of the body, so the fingers are experiencing more sensation than the body part being massaged. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Anonymous 0 Comments

Probably to avoid sensory overload. Imagine stretching and having an orgasm because your legs brushed up against each other