An article in the current issue of The American Journal of Play discusses the possible evolutionary reasons of why play behavior developed in humans and in just about every mammal. Early humans who knew how to cooperate with others, how to control their impulses, and how to communicate effectively had a better chance of surviving than those without such skills. Play develops these abilities. Monkeys and rats who were deprived of play at a young age grow up without adequate social skills and are prone to misread normal interactions with others in their species, as aggressive acts.
An interesting finding was when adults were asked to remember back when they played tag, did they prefer being chased, or being the chaser? Most people prefer being chased to being the person who is “it”. Apparently it was pretty important for our ancestors to know how to run away from wild animals.
LaFrenier, P. (2011) Evolutionary Functions of Social Play; Life Histories, Sex Differences and Emotion Regulation. The American Journal of Play, volume 3, number 4, by The Strong, 464-488
Post written by Bob Dean, Executive Director at the GRCM.