The Underrated Importance of Being Playful

Posted on August 20, 2015

Photo: flickr

When you're playful, you are more responsive; you are ready to change and change again, to try some different way of being, some other strategy. You are even ready to let go of one goal for the sake of another, or to abandon purpose and seriousness, or to look silly.

Garry Chick, Careen Yarnal, and Andrew Purrington wrote an article about playfulness in adults, called "Play and Mate Preference Testing the Signal Theory of Adult Playfulness (link is external)." The article discusses Chick’s theory:

“... Darwin’s concept of sexual selection ... is not only relevant to adult play and playfulness but also permits the generation of testable hypotheses. Specifically, Chick postulated that play and the personal characteristic of playfulness, among adult humans, sends signals, or messages, to the opposite sex of important information regarding the signaler’s suitability as a long-term mate. Moreover, the content of the signals sent by males and by females differs. Through play and playfulness, males signal their nonaggressiveness while females signal their youth and fecundity.”

The study concludes:

“… adult play is therefore a signal that conveys nonaggressiveness (tameness?) to females when exhibited by males. And, because it is so characteristic of juveniles, female play and playfulness communicate youthfulness, health, and, hence, fecundity to males.”

Perhaps playfulness helps to assure the survival of our species.

My favorite part of the article comes at the very end:

“In an ultimate sense, play has helped make us who we are, as adults; and in a proximate sense, it has made being an adult much more fun than it might have been otherwise.”


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