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Full text of "Expression Of The Emotions In Man And Animals"

.CHAP. VIII.

LAUGHTER.

199

danger, were particularly apt to burst out into loud
laughter at the smallest joke. So again when young
children are just beginning to cry, an unexpected event
will sometimes suddenly turn their crying into laughter,
which apparently serves equally well to expend their
superfluous nervous energy.

The imagination is sometimes said to be tickled by a
ludicrous idea; and this so-called tickling of the mind
is curiously analogous with that of the body. Every one
knows how immoderately children laugh, and how their
whole bodies are convulsed when they are tickled. The
anthropoid apes, as we have seen, likewise utter a re-
iterated sound, corresponding with our laughter, when
they are tickled, especially under the armpits. I touched
with a bit of paper the sole of the foot of one of my
infants, when only seven days old, and it was suddenly
jerked away and the toes curled about, as in an older
child. Such movements, as well as laughter from being
tickled, are manifestly reflex actions; and this is like-
wise shown by the minute unstripecl muscles, which
serve to erect the separate hairs on the body, contract-
ing near a tickled surface.0 Yet laughter from a ludi-
crous idea, though involuntary, cannot be called a strict-
ly reflex action. In this case, and in that of laughter
from being tickled, the mind must be in a pleasurable
condition; a young child, if tickled by a strange man,
would scream from fear. The touch must be light, and
an idea or event, to be ludicrous, must not be of grave
import. The parts of the body which are most easily
tickled are those which are not commonly touched, such
as the armpits or between the toes, or parts such as the
soles of the feet, which are habitually touched by a broad

0 J. Lister in * Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Sci-
ence,' 1853, vol. i. p. 266.