Play, Plasticity, and Ontogeny in Childhood

Anthony D. Pellegrini and Adam F. A. Pellegrini

in Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199755059
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979479 | DOI:
Play, Plasticity, and Ontogeny in Childhood

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This chapter contrasts the authors’ epigenetic position with an environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) position, as represented in evolutionary psychology and its intellectual forbearer, sociobiology. In contrast to the EEA/evolutionary psychology position, this chapter stresses the importance of developmental plasticity during early ontogeny and how play, specifically, might affect the course of development, behavior, and possibly evolution. The chapter shows how epigenetic theories highlight the impact of the environment and behavior in the ontogenetic process as part of the organism's dynamic adaptation to ever-changing ecological niches. Play, the chapter argues, is a paradigm example of a behavioral strategy used by juveniles to explore and subsequently acclimate to or change their current niche. The variation in ability to use play as an acclimation strategy is hypothesized to impact evolution, assuming it contains some genetic basis. To this end, the final section of the chapter outlines ways in which play affects both ontogeny and phylogeny.

Keywords: play; plasticity; epigenetics; development; novelty

Chapter.  6077 words. 

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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