The authors review several case studies of children engaged in rule-governed play and conclude that the process of learning rules—and of breaking them and making new ones—promotes what they call gamesmanship. They link the development of gamesmanship to the theory of Machiavellian intelligence, which considers social interaction primary in the evolution of human intelligence. They also question the benefits of adult-managed child play and assess the impact it may have on the ability of children to develop gamesmanship.
Evolutionary psychologists generally agree that human intelligence is profoundly social. Humans have survived because they shared food, defended against predation and aggression, and made groups responsible for the care of infants and toddlers.1 These activities required forging bonds with conspecifics, reading the intentions of others, creating allies, convincing others to follow along, and so on. Students of human behavior refer to these skills and habits collectively as Machiavellian intelligence.