Why do we play? And why it is attractive?!
Question of the origin of play and playfulness has been one concern of Garry Chick, Professor at the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, Penn State University. From an evolutionary perspective, Professor Chick has developed a theory in which he explains adult play and playfulness. It is now known why children and offspring play and what the advantages of play would be in their adult life – they are mentally being prepared for the problems and conflicts that they might face in their adult life. But what is the advantage of play and playfulness in human adults?
Professor Chick has proposed that “both male and female adult humans prefer mates who are playful because playfulness signals desirable attributes in possible mates.” Playfulness in males signals that they are not aggressive and would not harm the mother and the offspring. So females would prefer playful and harmless males. And playfulness in females signals health and fecundity, according to Professor Chick. On this basis, adult playfulness seems to be attractive to the opposite sex.
Professor Chick and two of his colleagues investigated this hypothesis experimentally and supported that with data. The article is now published in the latest issue of American Journal of Play and is accessible for free here.
Garry Chick, Careen Yarnal, and Andrew Purrington (2012). Play and Mate Preference Testing the Signal Theory of Adult Playfulness American Journal of Play, 4 (4)