Playing at Every Age

Elisabetta Palagi

in The Oxford Handbook of the Development of Play

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195393002
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Playing at Every Age

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  • Developmental Psychology



Play is ephemeral and versatile. Probably for this reason it is so difficult to study systematically. Results from the last two decades of research suggest that play is a multifunctional phenomenon that varies according to different factors such as the species, age, sex, relationship quality of the players, etc. Accordingly, animal play needs to be studied in a comparative framework in order to rigorously assess the relative weight of various functions and contexts. Play is mainly an immature matter; however, in many mammalian species social play continues through adulthood. Therefore, a complete understanding of play can be reached by taking into account its occurrence during each phase of life. Here, I present some recent studies on primates to show that play is a response to an immediate necessity. But if so, why should it be surprising to see two adults playing together?

Keywords: Social play; cognition; competence; fine-tuning; Lemur catta; Theropithecus gelada; Gorilla gorilla; Pan spp.

Article.  8303 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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