Evolution of Play
Play behavior can be studied as an adaptation evolved to develop motor and problem-solving skills, assess one’s own capabilities in relation to one’s environment, and learn how to interact and perhaps cooperate with social partners; play can also be considered phylogenetically as a trait that has evolved divergently, convergently, and in parallel.
Play behavior is highly prevalent across much of the animal kingdom, especially in the mammalian lineages. This prevalence suggests that play behavior must be an evolved adaptation, but developing and testing hypotheses to explain its origins has proved challenging. Understanding play behavior from an evolutionary perspective requires that play be clearly defined, that we have clear hypotheses explaining the relative costs and benefits of play, and that these adaptive hypotheses can be tested through direct or indirect observation. This...
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