Tootsie Roll Pop: How Many Licks?

An Ongoing Investigation

Principal Investigator: George Waksman
Copyright ©2004-2009 George Waksman
Data Contributors: George Waksman, Rachel Dillon, Megan Cohen, Jared Coffman, Brad Shilling, Cassidy Verlie


Since the invention of the Tootsie Roll Pop, many men (and women and owls) have asked the question, "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?" Previous research seems to suggest that one can reach the center with three licks and a bite (ref: Mr. Owl), but this does not sufficiently answer the question. Ongoing research is being conducted, and preliminary results have been obtained, towards solving the problem.


The purpose of the research that is being conducted is to systematically determine how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop.




  1. Unwrap the Tootsie Roll Pop


  1. Lick* side** of the Tootsie Roll Pop
  2. Rotate to other side** of Tootsie Roll Pop
  3. Repeat from Step 1 until center is reached***
  4. Record results

* - A lick is when your tongue is run across the Tootsie Rolls Pop; sucking is strictly prohibitted in this experiment. The tongue need not, necessarily, be retracted into the mouth between individual licks, though it has been found to be more pleasant for the experimenter with frequent tongue retraction.
** - Tootsie Roll Pops are shaped in a roughly saucer shape; the broader parts are being referred to as sides
*** - The center is determined to have been reached when licking yields the texture of Tootsie Roll, flavor of Tootsie Roll and the discoloration of Tootsie Roll is visible with reference to the candy portion. This eliminates false positives as a result of bubbles in the candy, oddly textured regions and seeing chocolate through candy


Trial #ContributorTrial DateColor# Of LicksTrial Duration
1George Waksman2004-05-21Blue474
2George Waksman2004-05-22Red522
3George Waksman2004-05-23Dark Red233
4George Waksman2004-05-24Orange590
5George Waksman2004-05-24Purple765
6George Waksman2004-05-24Brown79914m
7George Waksman2004-05-24Dark Red5859m
8George Waksman2004-05-25Blue53911m
9George Waksman2004-05-29Dark Red610
10Rachel Dillon2004-05-29Blue601
11George Waksman2004-05-29Dark Red595
12George Waksman2006-07-10Red141
13George Waksman2006-07-10Orange544
14George Waksman2006-07-12Blue392
15George Waksman2006-07-13Dark Red378
16George Waksman2006-07-16Green414
17George Waksman2006-07-18Dark Red37812m
18Megan Cohen2006-07-18Brown607
19Jared Coffman1988-06-13Dark Red272
20George Waksman2006-11-07Orange48012m
21Brad Shilling2008-05-05Dark Red689
22Cassidy Verlie2009-04-14Pink572


Minimum Licks

Since the obtained data represents the licking of both sides, the minimum number of licks for a given Tootsie Roll Pop is half (round up) the number of licks obtained in the trial


x_0 = 1/N * sum[x_i, i=1=>N]
double sided: x0 = 508
single sided: x0 = 254

Standard Deviation

s = sqrt[1/N * sum[(x_i-x_0)^2, i=1=>N]
double sided: s = 164
single sided: s = 82


Trial #Total LicksMinimum Licks
Std. Dev.16482

(I will try to add some graphs once I have a few more datapoints)


The data suggests that it takes approximately 508 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop when alternating the licking side. Since the procedure calls for equal licking of both sides of the Tootsie Roll Pop and completion is determined by core contact on either side, one could reach the core with fewer licks by focusing on only one side of the Tootsie Roll Pop. If one were to select the side closer to the core, it would theoretically require approximately 254 licks to reach the center.

The data also suggests a substantial variability in the number of licks required to reach the center, with a standard deviation of 164 licks for two sided licking and 82 for single side licking.

Error Sources

The small number of trials makes for a very large standard deviation. The standard deviation is so large, in fact, that it is not reasonable to assume the conclusions are accurate.

Further Research

More trials must be conducted to obtain more data points.

As other possible areas of research, one could look into the effects of tongue size, saliva production, tongue retraction and other variables on the number of licks necessary. The methods contained are easily adapted to further experimentaion.

Outside data contribution

Outside data contributions are accepted and greatly appreciated as long as the outlined procedure is strictly adhered to. Contributions may be made by sending details to Please include number of licks, trial date, lollipop color and contributors full name as incomplete contributions can not be used (trial duration is optional). Please do not contribute poisoned data.


Licensing, Reproduction and Use

Any and all information contained herein may be used for any purpose with or without explicit permission of the copyright holder provided that the original document and author are properly referenced wherever any of the information is used.