Play Makes Us Human

We humans have inherited the basic youthful play characteristics of our animal ancestors, but in the course of our biological and cultural evolution we have elaborated upon them and created new functions. Playfulness in humans does not end when adulthood begins and it serves many functions beyond the learning of species-specific skills. Social play in all animals requires that all tendencies toward aggression and dominance be suppressed. This is especially true in playful fighting, which is one of the most common forms of animal play. The fundamental difference between a play fight and a real fight is that the former involves no intention to hurt, drive away, or dominate the other animal. A play fight between two young animals can only occur if both are willing partners. Anything that smacks of true aggression or tendency to dominate would cause the threatened animal to run away, and the play, with all its fun and opportunity for learning, would end. And so, in the course of natural selection, animals developed signals to let each other know that their playful attacks are not real attacks, and they developed, for purposes of play, self-restraints and means of self-handicapping to operate against any tendencies to dominate or hurt one another in play.

Introduction: The Headman Was a Woman

Part I:  Outline of a Ludic Theory of Human Nature

Part II:  Defeating Dominance and Achieving Equality

Part III:  Play Is the Foundation for Religion

Part IV:  When Work Is Play

Part V:  Why Hunter-Gatherers’ Work is Play

Part VI: Hunter-Gatherers’ Playful Parenting


About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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