Aug 15Liked by Peter Gray

This really deserves repeating, "in play it is better to be subordinate and vulnerable than to be dominant and invulnerable."

Considering that play has been increasingly absent in our (the US, anyway) culture since the 1980s, it then should be no surprise that people have a harder time being vulnerable with each other. And, in turn, are less cooperative.

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“Again, the preferred position generally is the more vulnerable one, the one that would normally be that of the subordinate or loser (in a fight) or the prey (in a predatory encounter), not that of the dominant animal.”

Thank you for your insights.

You mention games such as tag and most people preferring to be chased, I would be interested to know if there are differences in the play of boys and girls. If females are more likely to display submissive behaviour and if age has a bearing upon it.

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Dr. Gray (I use this form of address to evoke your serious side), do you find it difficult to stay serious while talking about play? I know that I personally have difficulty staying on topic (but that's another topic).

I wonder if when dogs chase cars, they feel like it is the car having most of the fun.

It was news to me that rats played at all, and especially interesting that they would prefer to adopt submissive positions from which they would try to escape; especially interesting as I think this reflects my own attitude toward society in general - I am not a rebel, but I do enjoy trying to find ways to get out of prison. (Ummm ... not literally.)

I can also identify with the thrill of being chased. In chase games as a kid, if I were the pursuer I would always wonder: what am I supposed to do with them if I catch them? Much like as is true with dogs and cars I guess.

I remember Gregory Bateson, in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, offered the interpretation that dogs play fight because they don't have a language capable of negation, of saying "I won't fight", so instead they indicate the possibility of fighting without actually fighting, as a way of communicating "I don't want to fight". Early hominids were perhaps in a similar situation, at stages where they (I assume) only had sign language.

I also wonder to what degree humans might have observed the cooperative behavior of pack animals, and modeled their behavior.

And I also wonder how this relates to how we see that in some groups of Primates, there is a powerful Alpha Male in a dominant hierarchy (and likely a harem of females), compared to other groups where males are smaller and females have a more equal role. What pattern would we expect to have seen in early hominids? And how would this affect their willingness to play? Conversely, could lesser males who had learned to play have, in the process, learned how to cooperate well enough to oust the Alpha Males?

Really enjoying these.

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