The Frivolous Function of Play

My good friend Chloe is a mutt without an off button. 8 am? Time to play. 12 pm? Time to play. 7 pm? Time to play. 4 am? Guess what time it is!

Of course such behavior is a pure delight to watch, but as scientists we must ask ourselves the question: why? Why so much play, Chloe? What’s the point?

We appear to have lost Chloe's attention.

We appear to have lost Chloe’s attention.

It may seem silly to ask why play behavior occurs, because after all it’s play. Play! Play is all about fun; what’s there to study? And in fact, that attitude led to play being neglected as a study topic for much of scientific history. But play behavior is a category of behavior just like foraging behavior or sexual behavior or social behavior. If it occurs a lot- and it does- it must be evolutionarily important.

Okay, so we want to study play. So what counts as play behavior?

Seriously, how the hell do you define play?

Continue reading