Listen to part of a lecture in an animal behavior class.
All right, I hope you all had a chance to finish the assigned readings about animal play,
because I want to spend some time discussing the different viewpoints presented in those articles.
Let's start with the play-as-preparation hypothesis.
Jerry, can you explain that?
The young animals play in order to get really good at certain specific things they'll need to do when they are adults.
Things like chasing, pouncing, climbing.
In other words, they play in order to practice survival skills,
like movements used in hunting and fighting.
That hypothesis makes a lot of sense, like, maybe the most sense of all the theories we read about.
And, what leads you to that conclusion?
Well, like wolves, the young pups, they fight a lot and bite, you know, not to hurt each other,
but, just seems obvious why those wolf pups play like that,
gives them practice with skills that'll make them better hunters or fighters as adults.
Oh, I don't know about that.
I mean, some of the things the young animal does while playing are totally different from the things they will do as an adult.
There was a really good example in the second article.
I can't remember what it's called exactly… uh…self…
Right! Self-handicapping, like during a fake fight…uh… a play fight,
if one of the animals is winning, the winning animal might just stop and give up its advantage.
Yes, and often a shift to a submissive posture, too.
Of course self-handicapping hardly ever happens in a real fight,
because in a real fight, well, the point is to win.
So this self-handicapping is important to take this into account before deciding to go with that first explanation,
and in fact, there really isn't much in the way of solid experimental evidence to support the play-as-preparation hypothesis.
What about the other one, the flexibility hypothesis?
Ah, yes. Let's talk about that.