Human Nature

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 5–21 | Cite as

Playing for keeps

Evolutionary relationships between social play and the cerebellum in nonhuman primates
  • Kerrie P. Lewis
  • Robert A. Barton


The hypothesis that play behavior is more prevalent in larger-brained animals has recently been challenged. It may be, for example, that only certain brain structures are related to play. Here, we analyze social play behavior with regards to the cerebellum: a structure strongly implicated in motor-development, and possibly also in cognitive skills. We present an evolutionary analysis of social play and the cerebellum, using a phylogenetic comparative method. Social play frequency and relative cerebellum size are positively correlated. Hence, there appears to be a link between the evolutionary elaboration of social play and the cerebellum.

Key words

Cerebellum Comparative method Independent contrasts Primates Social play 


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© Walter de Gruyter, Inc., New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Evolutionary Anthropology Research GroupUniversity of DurhamUSA

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