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Gargalesis along with knismesis and are the scientific terms, coined in 1897 by psychologists G. Stanley Hall and Arthur Allin,[1] used to describe the two types of tickling.

Gargalesis refers to harder, laughter-inducing tickling, and involves the repeated application of high pressure to sensitive areas.[2] This "heavy tickle" is often associated with play and laughter. The gargalesis type of tickle works on humans and primates, and possibly on other species.[3] Because the nerves involved in transmitting "light" touch and itch differ from those nerves that transmit "heavy" touch, pressure and vibration, it is possible that the difference in sensations produced by the two types of tickle are due to the relative proportion of itch sensation versus touch sensation.[4]

While it is possible to trigger a knismesis response in oneself, it is usually impossible to produce gargalesthesia, the gargalesis tickle response, in oneself.[2]

Hypergargalesthesia is the condition of extreme sensitivity to tickling. [5]


  1. Hall, G. S., and A. Allin. (1897) The psychology of tickling, laughing and the comic. The American Journal of Psychology 9:1–42.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Harris
  3. Provine, R. R. (1996): Laughter. American Scientist 84: pp. 38–45.
  4. Selden, Samuel T. (2004): Tickle. J Am Acad Dermatol Vol. 50, No. 1: pp. 93–97.
  5. Corsini, Raymond J. (1999): The Dictionary of Psychology. Psychology Press: p. 457