October 26, 2006
You Can Tickle Yourself
In Why Do Pirates Love Parrots?, there's an update on an Imponderable we first discussed in Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?: "Why Can't We Tickle Ourselves?" In Dogs, the best we could do was point out that Freud wrote about the subject and claimed that to evoke a response, a tickle must have an element of surprise and hostility.
In Pirates, we report that neurologists have discovered that different parts of the cerebellum are triggered when we tickle ourselves than when others are torturing us. We received this email from reader Larry Pike of Vancouver, Washington:
While I'm not going to nit-pick, I do seem to be one of the rare "exceptions that proves the rule". That rule being: you cannot tickle yourself. While I am not susceptible to the usual locations, the bottoms of my feet have always been devastatingly ticklish. From my earliest memories until I came into my thirties, I could not even stand to wash the bottoms of my feet, let alone have someone else do it. Even today (I'm 59 yrs old), if someone tickles the bottom of my foot, they usually end up getting kicked in the chest, as many ex girlfriends can attest. A reflex, not on purpose. So some of us (un)lucky ones CAN in fact tickle ourselves.
You are not alone, Larry. According to experts I talked to, somewhere between five to ten percent of folks can tickle themselves successfully. If Freud is right, does that mean you suffer from a little self-loathing?