UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Humans, unlike most other mature mammals, play throughout their lives and U.S. researchers say that may have something to do with mating.
Garry Chick, professor and head of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Pennsylvania State University, said playfulness may serve an evolutionary role in human mating preferences by signaling positive qualities to potential long-term mates.
"Humans and other animals exhibit a variety of signals as to their value as mates," Chick said in a statement. "Just as birds display bright plumage or coloration, men may attract women by showing off expensive cars or clothing. In the same vein, playfulness in a male may signal to females that he is non-aggressive and less likely to harm them or their offspring. A woman's playfulness, on the other hand, may signal her youth and fertility."
Chick and colleagues Careen Yarnal and Andrew Purrington expanded on a previous survey that included a list of 13 possible characteristics that individuals might seek in prospective mates. To the original list, they added three new traits -- "playful," "sense of humor" and "fun loving." The authors gave the survey to 164 male and 89 female undergraduate students, ages 18-26.
Of the 16 items, sense of humor, fun-loving and playful ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, among traits that females sought in males, while males rated physically attractive, healthy and good heredity in females.
The researchers reported their results the American Journal of Play.