As you say, play is much more than just pretend fighting or practicing other adult behaviors.
Apparently, it also contributes to the development of a brain that's flexible.
A brain that's quickly able to get a handle on unfamiliar situations.
This notion, the flexibility hypothesis.
Well, many of my colleagues find it quite persuasive.
So like, with kids, a little kid might play a game with a friend, and then they might raise each other across the field?
So, they are switching from one type of play to another, there's a lot of variety?
I mean, they are learning to response to whatever happens?
Well, that's the general idea.
But let's hold off on talking about human behaviors from now.
OK, according to the flexibility hypothesis, yes, the diversity, the variety in play can lead to a broader behavioral vocabulary.
A broader behavioral vocabulary?
Can you explain what that means?
Well, sometimes play results in an animal doing something it would not normally do, that can lead to the animal learning to adapt, to come up with new behaviors that can help it cope with major problems later on, like staying safe or finding food.
Yeah, and there was that brain study you had us read about, too.
Oh, the one on how play affects development within the brain?
Right, that's it, about the animals raised in an environment where they did not get opportunities to play?
Yes, wasn't the conclusion interesting?
That play literally stimulates growth, creates connections within the brain?
We need to do further studies, but…
Excuse me, can we go back to play fighting for a minute?
I'm wondering, can the flexibility hypothesis really explain that?
Play fighting? Actually that's something that flexibility hypothesis explains very well.
Since play fighting includes variations in speed and intensity, and quick role reversals involved with self-handicapping, and animal that's play-fighting is constantly responding to changes.
So it's learning to be flexible.