Monday, November 11, 2013

The serious business of play

Gillian Brown reviews what looks like a very interesting book from Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin "Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation." The look critically evaluates the literature on animal and human play. A few clips from the review:
Some children gain pleasure from climbing trees, some spend hours with building bricks, and others enjoy pretending to be doctors or musicians. In Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation, Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin argue that all of these play activities have in common the generation of novel combinations of actions or thoughts and that early play experiences promote creativity in later life.
...this highly engaging book provides a novel perspective on the role of play activities that apparently lack seriousness. The clarity of prose and diversity of material covered in Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation persuade the reader to reconsider the importance of play in childhood and beyond. For instance, Bateson and Martin point out that childhood play can introduce complexity to the behavioral repertoire and lead to selection for traits that underpin the adoption of novel behavior, thereby altering the evolutionary trajectory of our species. Playful play may be particularly important in generating creativity, and the authors entreat that adults still “have much to gain from deliberately adopting a more playful approach to life.”
To use their quote from George Bernard Shaw, “We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

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