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Orchinik, C.W. (1958). On Tickling and Stuttering. Psychoanal. Rev., 45C(3):25-39.

(1958). Psychoanalytic Review, 45C(3):25-39

On Tickling and Stuttering

Carlton W. Orchinik


Study of tickling and ticklishness has been very limited. The dearth of such inquiries is perhaps partly explained by failure to uncover any unusual psychological significance in what seems to be an universal act and experience. It may have been assumed that the subject was adequately explained once a few of the characteristics and conscious perceptual components had been described. Flugel 5 has indicated a need for more systematic study of tickling, and in his discussion he points out that tickling is generally viewed as a mildly aggressive attack in which the mood of the act is a playful one and the subsequent reaction of laughter is suitable to the nature of the event. Ferenczi 4 saw some relationship between ticklishness and wit but did not elaborate on this connection. It was Freud 6 who indicated that the tickle or itch is analogous to the sexual instinct. J. Sadger as noted in Dunbar 14 expanded on this idea. He reports that tickling is most intimately connected with sexual life and has found that in many languages the word for tickle and cohabit are the same. Fenichel 3 supports a view contributed by A. Freud suggesting that laughter which is of course involved in ticklishness can be a substitute for sexual excitement.

This paper presents some observations on tickling and ticklishness with particular reference to the speech disorder, stuttering.


Looking first at the tickling situation itself we find that for the most part we are unable to tickle ourselves. Tickling is usually carried out by a second person and arouses erotic-like sensations. Often before learning to speak, the baby will take the hand of a parent and encourage it to explore the skin lightly while responding with gleeful squeals and chuckles.

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