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The Philosophy of Tickling « Andrew Pulliam

The Philosophy of Tickling

The pictures at the top of this article caught my eye, but the phenomenon of tickling is actually pretty interesting, and feeds directly into the notion of perception, sensation, and encountering the other.  One of the concepts I’ve never had the chance to explore in architecture is “play.”  So much of life, conversations with friends, physical movement, pursuits of recreation, diverstion, etc are based on the idea of play.  Some of the best conversations are just back and forths trying to make the other laugh.  Totally useless, often in fact taking place as a distraction to something more important.  Or the game, an arbitrary set of rules established to support a set of ongoing actions, that doesn’t aim at a pragmatic end.


“A primal, neurologically programmed mode of interaction, tickling creates intimacy through a benign and playful aggression. And the well-known inability to tickle oneself serves an important role in educating the infant about the limits of its own bodily experience, poignantly signaling the difference between self-affection and being affected by the other.”



Photographs from Nadezhda Ladygina-Kohts, Infant Chimpanzee and Human Child. Originally published in 1935, the book offers a comparative study of the behavior of a human child (Ladygina-Kohts’s own son Roody) and an infant chimpanzee named Joni. The bottom two images in this plate show Joni reacting to being tickled.

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