Teasing has multiple meanings and uses. In human interactions, teasing exists in three major forms: playful, hurtful, and educative. Teasing can have a variety of effects, depending on how it is utilized and its intended effect. When teasing is unwelcome, it may be regarded as harassment or mobbing, especially in the workplace and school, or as a form of bullying or emotional abuse. If done in public, it may be regarded as humiliation. Teasing can also be regarded as educative when it is used as a way of informal learning. Adults in some of the Indigenous American communities often tease children to playfully illustrate and teach them how their behavior negatively affects the community. Children in many Indigenous American communities also learn by observing what others do in addition to collaborating with them. Along with teasing, this form of informal learning is different from the ways that Western American children learn. Informal ways of child learning include mutual responsibility, as well as active collaboration with adults and peers. This differentiates from the more formal way of learning because it is not adult-oriented.
People may be teased on matters such as their appearance, weight, behavior, family, gender, faith, health/medical issues, abilities, clothing, and intelligence. From the victim's point of view, this kind of teasing is often hurtful, irrespective of the intention of the teaser.
One may also tease an animal. Some animals, such as dogs and cats, may recognize this both as play or harassment.