On Tue, 19 Dec 1995 BIRRED@dnr.state.wi.us wrote:
> Responding to Doug Seeley in High Play LO4299
> >I was really struck by examples of inter-species play among animals such
> >as a Bear and a Dog, wherein various cues to the fact that play was being
> >invited introduced these situations.
> I was glad to hear from Doug, and I don't want to contradict anyone, but
> my experience in training, working with and playing with animals leads me
> to a different conclusion.
> In what appears to be animal play, what we are seeing is not play as we
> know it, but instinctive behavior that originally had survival value,
> expressed in a non-survival setting. For example, a dog pulling on a rope
> is behaviorally tearing apart a large animal such as a deer. A cat
> playing with a string is acting on its hunting instinct. And a bear (and
> dog, and chimpanzee) rolling on its back is engaging in submissive
> behavior that recognizes the alpha position of the human (this is what
> enables lion tamers to manage big cats).
I agree with you, Dave, that the behavior we see is survival related, but
I wouldn't think that precludes it from being related to "play" in humans.
What would you say, for example, about the mother or father lion who not
only put up with, but actively join their offspring in "mock combat".
They are clearly engaged in a transitional behavior somewhere between the
world of survival and the world of the young. This could be thought of as
"teaching" the young (if we want to humanize it), but I would think that
it also comes from an intrinsically satisfying response to the experience
not only for the cub, but for the parent as well (up to a point!).
My notion of play is connected to the behavior that occurs in that world
of the "in-between" which allows for and supports learning and growth. It
is also, as far as I can tell, intimately connected to the bonding
experience which is so critical especially to human development. Without
sufficient bonding--much of which takes the form of playful
interaction--even human beings do not develop to their full potential if
they survive at all.
>From that point we can look at one of the primary differences between
humans and other species, and that is the extension of the child-like
traits--both physiologically and psychologically in particular--further
and further into "adulthood". So that, rather than being locked into some
"instinctual behavior pattern" by the second week or year of life, humans
continue to learn--potentially at least--throughout their life. I am
inclined to think that this ability to continue exploring, experimenting,
and learning late into adulthood is an outgrowth of prolonging and
expanding the play experience among other things. Ashly Montagu, a noted
scientist and investigator of human behavior has many fascinating things
to say along this line in his book, _Growing Young_.
> Animal trainers are successful inasmuch as they are able to get the
> critters to adapt their behavior. There's no such thing as play, and I'd
> suggets it's because animals don't feel emotion as we do. (Tobin, in your
> experience with play, would you conclude that there's a necessary link
> with emotion?)
I can agree, perhaps, that animals don't feel emotion in exactly the same
way as we do, but I don't know on what basis you conclude that animals
don't feel emotion. Just the other night, for example, I heard the
plaintiff wail of a cocker spaniel who had just moved into an apartment
nearby. His "owners" were away and he certainly sounded full of emotion to
me. My momentary visit to make aquaintance with him and welcome him to the
neighborhood had immediate effect on his apparent "mood".
I would not want to exclude the capacity to feel emotions from a species
whose language I don't understand any sooner than I would from a group of
people with whom I cannot communicate clearly enough to know. I guess the
issue in my mind is that we can err on the side of "anthropomorphizing"
by inclusion and by _exclusion_ as well. I tend to operate on the
possibilitway--but don't ask me to expound on that just yet, give me a few
more lifetimes to consider it in more depth!
In response to your query, I would say that, for me, play does include an
emotional level just as it can include an intellectual or spiritual level
if we are wanting to separate out those aspects for attention.
> There's an important lesson here for learning. Just as animals seek to
> match their instinctive behaviors with the trainer's expectations, so do
> people seek to match their actions with the situations in which they find
> themselves. As much as I see clearly the difference between humans and
> other critters, I think we would do well to see deeply into people to
> understand their needs, and try to connect learning experiences with them.
On this, as usual, we heartily agree!
-- Tobin Quereau <firstname.lastname@example.org>