Do you find the sight of a bunch of guys tossing around a football on the beach irresistible? What about a woman onstage singing spoof karaoke, and having a great time doing it? New research in the American Journal of Play shows that, unlike most animals, many adult humans continue to engage in playful behavior well into their summer and autumn years, and that this fun-loving attitude may help them score big when it comes to the opposite sex.
According to researchers at Penn State, playfulness may have evolved as a signal of positive qualities to a potential long-term mate. For men, playfulness may send out non-aggressive vibes to women, while a woman’s playfulness may indicate her youthfulness and fertility.
To arrive at this conclusion, the study authors gave a questionnaire to 164 male and 84 female students, aged 18 to 26. They asked them to rank 16 possible characteristics in order of preference for hypothetical long-term partners. Of the listed attributes, females ranked “sense of humor,” “fun loving” and “playful” as their second, third and fourth preference, respectively. While males also valued these traits, they ranked “physically attractive,” “healthy” and “good heredity” on the top of their lists, too.
And in addition to scoring the guy or gal, having a sense of humor or capacity to play can earn other benefits in life, according to Barking Up the Wrong Tree:
- Laughter can improve health and has been linked to a stronger immune system for those who use humor to cope with stress
- Laughter can reduce pain
- Playful people get better grades in school
- Reliving funny moments can strengthen the relationship between two people