Friday, September 21, 2018

Getting into the Literature on Play (Part 2)

This morning I was able to get through the remainder of The Genesis of Animal Play. Some of the important take-home insights for me from Burghardt's extensive study of play in animals:

#1 What is play?

B. argues that play is recognized by 5 criteria:

1. Limited immediate function
2. endogenous component
3. structural or temporal difference
4. repeated performance
5. relaxed field.

"Play is repeated, incompletely functional behavior differing from serious versions structurally, contextually, or ontogenetically, and initiated voluntarily when the animal is in a relaxed or low-stress setting" (82)

#2. Play is a heterogeneous category and different types of play have their own phlogenetic and developmental trajectories. This means, if I want to run a functional explanation about the developmental purpose of play there isn't one single thing that can be identified as THE primary developmental objective.

#3. B defends what he calls the SURPLUS RESOURCE THEORY (SRT) of play, which incorporates physiology, life history, behavior repertoire and psychological factors into the story of why species engage in the different types of play then do. The SRT emphasizes 4 important processes which underlie play, which B says some may be necessary but not sufficient for play to occur:

A. sufficient metabolic energy (store energy)
B. buffered from serious stress and food shortages
C. need for stimulation to elicit species-typical behavioral systems (e.g. susceptibility to boredom)
D. life-style that involves complex sequences of behavior in varying conditions, including diverse and unpredictable environmental and/or social resources.

B also links play with "flow" (p. 398), and notes that play can be cruel (chapter 2 contains the story of a magpie that stoned a toad! B also notes that when animals kills more than can be eaten or stored elements of play might be involved), play can be risky and dangerous (sky diving), and addictive (gambling). These are all significant insights I need to address if I plan to utilize play as the foundation for a realistic (vs overly idealized) utopia.

The next book on my reading list for today... The Power of Play.