Playfulness may help adults attract mates, study finds

Aug 03, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Why do adults continue to play throughout their lives while most other mature mammals cease such behavior? According to researchers at Penn State, playfulness may serve an evolutionary role in human mating preferences by signaling positive qualities to potential long-term mates.

"Humans and other animals exhibit a variety of signals as to their value as mates," said Garry Chick, professor and head of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management. "Just as birds display bright plumage or , men may attract women by showing off expensive cars or clothing. In the same vein, playfulness in a male maysignal to females that he is nonaggressive and less likely to harm them or their offspring. A woman's playfulness, on the other hand, may signal her youth and fertility."

Chick and colleagues Careen Yarnal, associate professor of recreation, park and tourism management, and Andrew Purrington, lecturer in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, expanded on a previous survey that included a list of 13 possible characteristics that individuals might seek in . To that original list, they added three new traits: "playful," "sense of humor" and "fun loving." The authors gave the survey to 164 male and 89 female undergraduate students, ages 18 to 26.

Of the 16 items, "sense of humor," "fun loving" and "playful" ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, among traits that females sought in males. Males rated three traits--"physically attractive," "healthy," and "good "--that are characteristic of as significantly more desirable than females rated them in males.

The team reported its results online in this month's issue of the American Journal of Play.

"The fact that the subjects tended to rank 'sense of humor,' 'fun loving' and 'playful' at or near the top of the list of 16 characteristics does not mean that the mates they have selected or will select will actually exhibit these traits," said Chick. "In addition, the results may be skewed by the fact that most of the study subjects were college students from a western culture. Despite these caveats, it seems to us thatsignaling one's virtues as a potential long-term mate through playfulness is not far-fetched. Our results suggest that adult playfulness may result fromsexual selection and signal positive qualities to potential long-term mates."

Explore further: A call to US educators: Learn from Canada

Related Stories

'Paranoia' about rivals alters insect mating behavior

Aug 08, 2011

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that male fruitflies experience a type of 'paranoia' in the presence of another male, which doubles the length of time they mate with a female, despite the female of the ...

Women prefer prestige over dominance in mates

Dec 17, 2008

A new study in the journal Personal Relationships reveals that women prefer mates who are recognized by their peers for their skills, abilities, and achievements, while not preferring men who use coercive tactics to subord ...

Recommended for you

A call to US educators: Learn from Canada

4 hours ago

As states and the federal government in the U.S. continue to clash on the best ways to improve American education, Canada's Province of Ontario manages successful education reform initiatives that are equal parts cooperation ...

Devices or divisive: Mobile technology in the classroom

Apr 17, 2015

Little is known about how new mobile technologies affect students' development of non-cognitive skills such as empathy, self-control, problem solving, and teamwork. Two Boston College researchers say it's ...

Forming school networks to educate 'the new mainstream'

Apr 17, 2015

As immigration increases the number of non-English speaking "culturally and linguistically diverse" students, schools will need to band together in networks focused on the challenges of educating what has been called "the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.