Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tickling for Babies’ Brains and Self-Defense

It’s happened to all of us at some point - You’re minding your own business when suddenly you’re tickle-attacked!

Tickle attacks are like ninja attacks - They're unpredictable
Two things are happening: you’re laughing uncontrollably and you have a pressing need to make it stop. So you flail and squirm, trying to get the person away from you.

If tickling was meant to feel good, why is our natural response to get away from it?

Today, I’ll tell you some things about tickling that you probably didn’t know. I’ll also give you some tips to avoid a tickle-attack and how best to strike back!

The Theories of Tickling

There are two major psychological theories explaining why we’re ticklish.

The Environmental Theory -

This theory says that being ticklish is a response to a perceived threat. Someone has entered our personal space, is very excited and is putting their hands on us. In fact, our facial expressions while being tickled more closely represent expressions of pain than of pleasure. Until our brains have a chance to figure out whether we’re in danger or not, our body reacts with panic. That’s why being tickled can feel scary.

"When someone asks you if you're ticklish, it doesn't matter what you say... They're going to touch you." -Demetri Martin
 The Evolutionary Theory -

This theory says that our ancestors used tickling as a way to train babies to protect their vulnerable areas. Notice that our most ticklish places (neck, under the arms, back of the knees, etc.) are places where the skin is thinnest, or there are arteries present. Other evolutionary psychologists claim that tickling helps us and our ancestors to be aware of potentially lethal insects or critters. Still, other psychologists argue that tickling has no evolutionary purpose, and that it’s just “along for the ride.”

Both theories do a good job explaining tickling in their own way. Personally, I prefer the environmental theory, because it explains the intense fear I have of people coming at me with their hands out and a look of violent glee on their faces.

Babies Need Their Feet Tickled

According to Dr. Aarre Laakso, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, babies need to be stimulated in order for their brains to develop properly. One of the best ways to aid brain development is to tickle their feet, or let them walk around barefoot. Any contact can be beneficial, as it helps them to develop whole-body motor skills. That’s why baby slings such as these are actually harmful for a baby’s growth.

I don't have a kid, but when did carrying go out of style?

Avoid Tickle Domination

Okay, so now for the practical part of this post. Someone is coming after you with their fingers at the ready. What are you going to do?

1) Relax. If you get too keyed up, the tickling feeling will intensify. Calm your body down and keep telling yourself, “It doesn’t tickle that bad. It doesn’t tickle that bad.” You’ll still feel the tickle, but if you keep calm, it won’t be the unbearable, body spasming, oh-no-oh-no-please-stop-I-can’t-breathe kind of tickling you’re used to.

2) Counter-attack. If someone is coming after you, hoping to tickle you, then automatically in the mood for a good tickle, themselves. Use this to your advantage. If their brain is ready for a tickle fight, and your brain is calm, you have a leg up on the battle to come.

3) Get ‘em where it hurts. The evolutionary theory has shown that our more ticklish areas are our more sensitive areas. Go for them! Don’t waste time trying to tickle the back or belly, go for the ribs, the neck, and the bottoms of the feet! Let this person know that you’re a tickle master and you are not to be trifled with.

Congratulations, you’re now a brown belt in Tickle-Fu.

Your Tickle-Fu is strong...

No comments:

Post a Comment