activities will offer:
hands-on experience during which you'll try to tickle yourselves
experiences that test how spoken and tactile directions
may interfere with the tickle sensation
and pencil (to record your observations)
1 - Tickling - Out of Control
- Work with a partner - one person is the "researcher" and
the other is the "subject".
- As the researcher, ask your subject to remove his/her
sock and shoe from one foot.
- Ask the subject to try to tickle himself or herself by
gently brushing fingers over the exposed arch in a manner
that would elicit a tickling response in others.
- Next, explore the tickling response by gently brushing
your fingers over the subject's exposed arch.
- Using a ruler as a guide, draws a 3" by 3" grid on a sheet
of paper. Each grid line should have a separation distance
of 1 inch = producing 9 equal sized squares. Over the top
row, identify each column as A, B, and C. Along the left
margin, identify each row as 1, 2, and 3.
- Note how each box can be identified by a letter and number
combination. A1 is the top left box. The center box is B2.
- Uses a makeup pencil to reproduce a copy of this box on
the exposed arch of your subject. The box drawn upon the
skin must be created at the same size as this paper version.
- Ignoring the line pattern, the researcher brushes a random
pattern across the grid. REMEMBER: The random brush strokes
cannot extend beyond the center of the outlying boxes as
illustrated - the "area of allowable tickling."
- Your subject should rate the ticklish stimulation on a
scale of 1 to 10 and record it in their journal.
- Place a finger at the center of any one of the boxes.
Steadily, brush your finger against the skin in a controlled
manned, from to the center of one adjoining box to the next.
Again, your subject should rates this more controlled brush
on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Now move your finger around the grid more randomly, without
moving box to adjoining box, but always remain within the
"allowable area of tickling." Ask your subject should compares
and contrasts the intensity of the tickle and record this
in their laboratory journal.
- Exchange roles with the subject and repeat the activity.
2 - TICKLING - Audio Directed Paths
- Ask your subject to hold the grid made in the previous
activity and call out the identity of one of the squares.
Lightly presses a finger in the center of that square.
- The subject should identify a neighboring square. In
response gently brush a straight line to the center of this
square. Ask the subject to compare and contrast this self-directed
movement to the random movement produced in the previous
activity. The subject should rate the tickle stimuli on
a scale of 1 to 10.
- Ask the subject to call out a succession of box destinations,
given just as the finger reaches the center of its intended
box. This will create a continual and slow movement from
box to box. Afterwards, ask the subject to compare the ticklish
stimulus of this subject-directed movement to the researchers
random movement from box center to box center, on a scale
of 1 to 10.
- Exchange roles and repeat the activity.
3 - TICKLING - Tactile Directed Paths
- Ask your subject should hold the grid paper in one hand
so that both of you can see this grid. Ask the subject to
use his/her other hand to point to a grid location and maintain
continual contact between the fingertip and the paper.
- As the subject points to the paper grid position, place
a finger on the arch grid at that same location.
- Keeping contact with the paper, the subject should slowly
draw a path from box to box. Simultaneously, brush the same
pattern onto the arch grid. Ask the subject to compare,
contrast, and rate this tactile directed stimulation with
the previous tickling methods.
- Exchange roles and repeat the activity.
- Was self-tickling experienced?
- Why was the random tickling movements restricted to a
certain area that was one half inch within the outer perimeter
of the grid?
- How did directing the tickle movement by spoken locations
affect the tickle?
- How did directing the tickle movement by drawing out movements
by the subject's finger affect the tickle? Why?
ANALYSIS OF YOUR MODEL
does directing your own tickle movements reduce the tickling
sensation? Did you and your partner have the same responses?
Compare and contrast these trials performed by other classmates?
Are some people more ticklish than others are? Can you uncover
and personality or biological features that may influence
a person's response to tickling?
preoccupation with another thought affect your ability to
be tickled? Think about it. Suppose you were in the midst
of mathematical calculations. Would this thinking interfere
with your brain's response to the potentially tickling stimuli?
Design an experiment that would explore how preoccupation
with other thoughts affects one's ability to be tickled. With
your instructor's approval, perform the inquiry and share
your results with the class.
WITH YOUR OWN FINGER
a challenge. Do you think that you can be tickled with your
own finger if someone else controls its movements? To check
this out, you'll need to relax enough so that your partner
moves your finger without any resistance. First, remove your
shoe and sock. Cross your legs so that your left foot extends
horizontally across your right thigh. Have your partner sit
on your right side. Let them take your right hand and hold
it so that your index finger extends outward. Relax and give
up control of your right arm, finger, and hand. Challenge
your partner to tickle your exposed arch using your index
finger. Can it be done? Even though you are not in control
of the movements, does your body have automatic feedback that
tells you where and what your body parts are doing?
An excerpt from an article entitled The Mystery of Ticklish
This article explains the role of the cerebellum in preventing
Describes experiments on self-tickling
activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio,
a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical
Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound"
(Sterling Publishing Co., NY).
Advisors for this guide
Lowen, Science Department, Wayland High School, Wayland, MA
Suzanne Panico, Science Department, Fenway High School, Boston,