Learning & Behavior

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 330–334 | Cite as

Creating a common terminology for play behavior to increase cross-disciplinary research



Historically, play behavior has been difficult to define. This likely stems from the number of different species, types of play, and context under which it occurs. In 2016, the Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield Zoo hosted the Psychonomic Society leading edge workshop on the evolutionary and psychological significance of play. Sixteen experts attended from the diverse fields of African ethnology, animal behavior, animal science, animal welfare, cognitive psychology, cognitive zoology, comparative psychology, cultural anthropology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, ethology, neuroscience, primatology, and zoology. Approximately half of the participants studied human play and the other half studied non-human play. Before the workshop, participants were asked to send in either their personal definition of play or the one that they cite in peer-reviewed literature. Definitions were then reviewed to determine characteristics of play inclusive of all disciplines. The goal of the current study was not to do a literature review on play behavior, but to come up with a list of characteristics across all forms of play that could be used as a common terminology moving forward. Hopefully the results of this workshop and the current article will help to increase cross-disciplinary research in the field of play.


Animal Behavior Common language Evolutionary benefit Human Play 



I would like to thank all of the participants of the 2016 Psychonomic Society Workshop held at the Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield Zoo. This includes Alex de Voogt, Cindy Dell Clark, Vladimir Dinets, Tracy Gleason, Fernand Gobet, Artin Göncü, Martine Hausberger, Heather Hill, Angeline Lillard, Mathias Osvath, Elisabetta Palagi, Jaak Panksepp, Sergio Pellis, Jeff Rushen, and Marek Spinka. I would also like to thank the Psychonomic Society for funding the workshop and Louis Shomette for all his assistance. Finally, I would like to thank Stan Kuczaj (1951-2016) for making the workshop possible. He will be forever missed and his dedication to the field will never be forgotten.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield ZooBrookfieldUSA

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