|About the Book|
In The Genesis of Animal Play, Gordon Burghardt examines the origins and evolution ofplay in humans and animals. He asks what play might mean in our understanding of evolution, thebrain, behavioral organization, and psychology. Is play essential toMoreIn The Genesis of Animal Play, Gordon Burghardt examines the origins and evolution ofplay in humans and animals. He asks what play might mean in our understanding of evolution, thebrain, behavioral organization, and psychology. Is play essential to development? Is it the drivingforce behind human and animal behavior? What is the proper place for the study of play in thecognitive, behavioral, and biological sciences?The engaging nature of play -- who does not enjoywatching a kitten attack a ball of yarn? -- has made it difficult to study. Some scholars havecalled play undefinable, nonexistent, or a mystery outside the realm of scientific analysis. Usingthe comparative perspectives of ethology and psychology, The Genesis of Animal Play goes furtherthan other studies in reviewing the evidence of play throughout the animal kingdom, from humanbabies to animals not usually considered playful. Burghardt finds that although playfulness may havebeen essential to the origin of much that we consider distinctive in human (and mammalian) behavior,it only develops through a specific set of interactions among developmental, evolutionary,ecological, and physiological processes. Furthermore, play is not always beneficial or adaptive.PartI offers a detailed discussion of play in placental mammals (including children) and develops anintegrative framework called surplus resource theory. The most fascinating and most controversialsections of the book, perhaps, are in the seven chapters in part II in which Burghardt presentsevidence of playfulness in such unexpected groups of animals as kangaroos, birds, lizards, and FishThat Leap, Juggle, and Tease. Burghardt concludes by considering the implications of the diversityof play for future research, and suggests that understanding the origin and development of play canshape our view of society and its accomplishments through history.