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Who’s Most Ticklish?

based on 20 ratings
Author: Shelly Smith

Grade Level: 2nd to 4th; Type: Social Science

Objective:

This project determines what category of person is most likely to be ticklish.

Research Questions:

  • Do males or females tend to be more ticklish?
  • What age(s) of persons tend to be most ticklish?

Why can’t we tickle ourselves? Why do people laugh when tickled, even when they don’t like it? Some scientists, approaching it from an evolutionary standpoint, believe that tickling encourages social bonding. Others believe that it is a primitive form of self-defense practice for young children.

Materials:

  • A long feather
  • Test subjects of different ages and genders
  • Paper and pencil for recording and analyzing data

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Record the gender and age of test subject.
  2. Using the feather, tickle the test subject in various commonly-ticklish spots (ear, neck, back of knee, etc.).
  3. Rate the subject’s response to each tickle on a scale of one to five with one being no response and five being extreme ticklishness.
  4. Repeat for all subjects.
  5. Analyze results: On average do males or females tend to be more ticklish? Do younger or older people tend to be more ticklish? Do certain categories of people tend to be ticklish in a particular spot on their body (e.g. You might find that in general boys younger than 7 are ticklish on their knees but not on their ears)? Consider explanations based on scientists' hypotheses of the evolutionary roots of ticklishness.
  6. Extension: Ask test subjects whether they find tickles pleasant or unpleasant. Analyze subjects’ answers according to gender, age, and overall degree of ticklishness.

Terms/Concepts: ticklish, gender, age

References: “Ticklishness Unexplained,” by Natalie Wolchover, Facto Diem: Scientific Facts, Not Quite Everyday

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