Playfulness Key to Happy, Lasting Relationships According to American Journal of Play

The Strong News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 • 585-263-2700 •

February 24, 2015

For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

Kim Della Porta, 585-410-6325,

Playfulness Key to Happy, Lasting Relationships
According to the
American Journal of Play

ROCHESTER, NY—Playfulness may be the key to helping attract—and keep—a mate according to research published in the most recent issue of The Strong’s American Journal of Play. Authors Rene Proyer, professor of psychology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and Lisa Wagner, a research and teaching assistant at the University of Zurich, argue that playfulness may serve an evolutionary role in mating preferences by making a person more attractive to potential mates. They also suggest that playfulness takes a significant role in creating long-lasting relationships.

The authors conducted their research by replicating an earlier study on mating preferences by Garry Chick, professor and head of the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management at Pennsylvania State University (published in the American Journal of Play in 2012). Proyer and Wagner replicated the study with German-speaking people to examine the importance of play in mating selection even across cultures. They then took the study a step further, studying the role of play in existing romantic relationships, not just in mate selection.

The authors surveyed 327 college-aged students and used a rating scale for desired characteristics in potential partners that included 16 traits—such as sense of humor, fun loving, intelligence, and others. Playfulness consistently rated high as a desired trait. They write, “Overall, this may suggest that playful people are more attractive to others in real life—because they may be more expressive, they may make it easy to feel comfortable and communicate openly, and they may seem more authentic…”

People involved in romantic relationships already also rated playfulness as more important—and displayed higher traits of playfulness themselves—than those not in romantic relationships. The authors suggest that this may be because playfulness helps couples to overcome routine difficulties, prevents boredom, and boosts positive emotions. They write, “…people perceive playfulness as being beneficial to well-functioning romantic relationships, by increasing well-being in the partnership, by maintain the excitement and conveying one’s affection, or, more generally speaking, by more deeply cultivating the relationship.

The authors say that more research needs to be done in the study of play and mating and that it may benefit from examining couples instead of individuals.

Additional articles in Vol. 7, No. 2 of the American Journal of Play include:

Parent-Child Play across Cultures: Advancing Play Researchby Jaipaul L. Roopnarine, professor of child and family studies at Syracuse University, and Kimberly L. Davidson, a doctoral candidate at Syracuse University. Roopnarine and Davidson argue that researchers should examine children’s play across cultures—and through more complex investigative models—to have a better understanding of parent-child play and theory.

Competitive Speech and Debate: How Play Influenced American Educational Practice,” by Michael D. Bartanen, professor of communications and theater at Pacifica Lutheran University, and Robert S. Littlefield, professor of communications at North Dakota State University. The authors identify competitive speech and debate as a form of academic play, and they argue that its introduction changed the evolution of higher education in the United States. They claim that it helped democratize American citizenship for the poor (by imparting skills that could be used toward social and economic growth), and that it led to the development of speech communication as an academic discipline.

Gender Neutrality in Play of Young Migrant Children: An Emerging Trend or an Outlierby Smita Mathur, associate professor at James Madison University, and Gowri Parameswaran, professor of education at the State University of New York at New Paltz. The authors explore gender differences in the play of children of migrant farmer works in Mexico. Their findings show that none of the children studied exhibited gender differences in their play—despite the claims of earlier researchers that indicated children exhibit gender differences in play as early as three years old.

The complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be accessed freely online at Printed editions are also available for subscription and singly copy purchase.

About the American Journal of Play
The Strong’s American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.