Why do we laugh when tickled?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Believe it or not, no one is completely sure why we laugh when tickled. However, the best explanation I have found comes from author Paul Lines. He explains that when we are tickled there is surprise and tension. Laughter comes as a release and relief as we realize that we are being tickled and not attacked. This is probably an evolutionary reaction that protects the parts of our bodies, which are the most vulnerable to attack and tickling.

It's an involuntary response to an attack. The spots on the body that tend to be most ticklish are the same ones most vulnerable to injury, so when we're tickled, we tuck in to defend ourselves, squirm to escape and laugh. Neuroscientists and evolutionary biologists say our laughter shows our submission.

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