, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 405-421

First online:

The Aggressiveness of Playful Arguments

  • Dale HampleAffiliated withUniversity of Maryland Email author 
  • , Bing HanAffiliated withUniversity of South Carolina
  • , David PayneAffiliated withUniversity of Maryland

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Some people report that they argue for play. We question whether and how often such arguments are mutually entertaining for both participants. Play is a frame for arguing, and the framing may not always be successful in laminating the eristic nature of interpersonal argumentation. Previous research and theory suggest that playfulness may be associated with aggression. Respondents (N = 199) supplied self-report data on their arguing behaviors and orientations. We found support for the hypothesis that self-reported playfulness and aggression are directly associated. We found less evidence for our hypothesized inverse association between self-reported playfulness and indices of cooperation and avoidance. Self-reports of playfulness are not significantly associated with expert coders’ ratings of either playfulness or aggressiveness. The claim that an argument is playful should be met with skepticism, although playful arguments are possible.


Arguing Argument frames Play Aggressiveness Cooperation Argumentativeness Verbal aggressiveness