Influence of Maternal Social Communication on Ticklishness in Infants: A Comparison With Being Stroked


Correspondence should be sent to Ayaka Ikeda, Department of Psychology, Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University, Yoshida-Honmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan. E-mail:


The tickle sensation is considered to arise from physiological and social factors. Previous research reports that although infants laugh in response to tactile stimulation in first 6 months of life, they cease laughing to this stimulation as they grow. Because older children often appear to laugh in response to tickling, the current study focused on relationships between infants’ response to tickling and social factors as they grow. Specifically, we examined effects of different maternal social interactions on infants’ reactions to tickling vs. stroking tactile stimulations. Results showed that a tickle stimulus, together with maternal communications, elicits positive reactions in infants. In contrast, a noncommunicative mother and stroking tends to elicit from the child a neutral response, whereas the combination of a noncommunicative mother with tickling evokes negative reactions in infants. These findings suggest that maternal social communication affects infants’ reactions to touch. In addition, the combination of tactile and social stimulations elicits laughter in infants over 6 months of age.