Everyone knows you can’t make yourself laugh by tickling yourself – right? Wrong! People who can actually tickle themselves into convulsions may be hiding it from you because, according to a new study, it’s a sign of a tendency towards schizophrenia. We’ll wait here while you hide and tickle yourself.
What happened? Did it last more than four hours? Did you call your doctor? Before you answer, let’s learn a little more about the research.
The inability to tickle oneself is one of those mysteries that is accepted yet defies explanation. However, in 2000, neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore found a few people who could actually tickle themselves into laughter. Those people were also schizophrenics. Blakemore theorized that their brains could not cancel out the consequences of their own actions, which is why they also experienced paranoia and hallucinations.
According to a report in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, that theory has finally been proven. Psychologists in France led by Anne-Laure Lemaitre gave students the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire. Two groups of students who had never been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition – 27 who scored high in schizotypic traits and 27 who scored low – were selected for self-tickle testing.
The tickling tool was a brush. The subjects tried to tickle themselves with the brush and were tickled by one of the researchers (all in the name of science, of course). The subjects then rated how ticklish each touch of the brush felt. Go ahead and try it on yourself.
The results confirmed the theory. While the high schizotypic and low schizotypic subjects rated the tickled-by-someone-else tickling to feel the same, the highly schizotypic students were definitely more self-ticklish – to the point where they rated the feeling being the same as when tickeled by someone else.
While Lemaitre was tickled with the results (you knew it was coming), the self-ticklish subjects probably weren’t. Although it was a limited test, the results indicate that healthy people who are self-ticklish tend to also have unusual perceptual experiences (like supernatural experiences) and passivity experiences (feelings of being under the control of an outside force).
Before you call a psychiatrist, try a different brush.