Books  Animal & General Biology  Animals: Behaviour 

Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation

  • Clarifies the different meanings of play, focusing on playful and non-aggressive behaviour in both animals and humans
  • Argues that playfulness is important for both creativity and innovation, distinguishing between the generation of novel behaviour and ideas on the one hand and the implementation of the most valuable of these novelties on the other
  • Describes the activities of creative humans and the invention by animals of novel solutions to difficult problems, placing the discussion in context, before turning to the role of play in the development of the child

By: Patrick Bateson(Author), Paul Martin(Author)

153 pages, 1 b/w illustration

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Jul 2013 | #203767 | ISBN-13: 9781107689343
Availability: Usually dispatched within 48 hours
NHBS Price: £24.99 $32/€27 approx
Hardback | Jul 2013 | #203766 | ISBN-13: 9781107015135
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £64.99 $84/€71 approx

About this book

What role does playful behaviour and playful thought take in animal and human development? How does play relate to creativity and, in turn, to innovation? Unravelling the different meanings of 'play', Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation focuses on non-aggressive playful play. The authors emphasise its significance for development and evolution, before examining the importance of playfulness in creativity. This discussion sheds new light on the links between creativity and innovation, distinguishing between the generation of novel behaviour and ideas on the one hand, and the implementation of these novelties on the other.

The authors then turn to the role of play in the development of the child and to parallels between play, humour and dreaming, along with the altered states of consciousness generated by some psychoactive drugs. A final chapter looks forward to future research and to what remains to be discovered in this fascinating and important field.

Advance praise: "In this highly readable and thought-provoking book, Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin show how play helps animals to find novel solutions and sows the evolutionary seeds for human creativity. They argue that being able to 'break the rules' in a protected environment, which is what play does, generates new ideas (creativity) and new ways of doing things (innovation). By looking at the conditions in which humans are at their most creative, they make a major contribution to what we might do to be even more creative than we are."
- Marian Stamp Dawkins, University of Oxford, and co-author of An Introduction to Animal Behaviour

Advance praise: "This groundbreaking work will inform, engage and please an extensive audience, from play scholars and naturalists to those seeking an improved basis for practical approaches to social questions. The book's originality, common-sense foundation, clear and readable language, and pragmatism are all commendable. The authors, whose landmark studies of behavioral development now span more than a quarter century, take pains to present a readable and direct exposition of their ideas. At the same time, they succeed in drawing bold distinctions when necessary and in forthrightly addressing concerns that span a broad range of social issues. The authors informatively fine-tune previous concepts of play in their successful efforts to link play with the origins of the creative process across a broad biological spectrum. The book's main themes are woven together to produce a work of great general interest."
- Robert M. Fagen, author of Animal Play Behavior

Advance praise: "Kittens toy with half-dead prey, dogs chase sticks, kids pretend to be teachers or airline pilots, and their parents revel in painting, gardening and sport. All are examples of play behavior. But whilst it is immediately apparent that play is gratifying, a compelling scientific explanation for why it evolved in the first place has remained elusive. Now Bateson and Martin, leading experts on animal behavior, provide an answer – play functions to generate creativity and stimulate innovation. It is an adaptation to get out of the rut and discover better solutions to life's challenges. With beautifully clear writing and covering diverse literatures, from animal cognition, to child development, to dreaming and psychedelic drugs, Bateson and Martin's text provides a wonderfully readable and much-needed summary of scientific knowledge of play."
- Kevin N. Laland, University of St Andrews

Advance praise: "An important book at an important time. Again we are arguing over how best to fit our children to become useful productive citizens. Yes, we want them to be happy too, but the framework must somehow be put in. Play may be seen as a nice extra. Bateson and Martin argue it is much, much more. Reviewing a wide range of studies, beginning with play in some of our animal relatives then to ourselves from infancy to adult life they show how playfulness may be at the very core of creative thinking and action [...] What can be established is a flexible framework much more adaptable to changing circumstances [...] this book celebrates the human free spirit and is full of encouraging examples of what can be achieved. I hope it is widely studied in educational circles."
- Aubrey Manning, University of Edinburgh, and co-author of An Introduction to Animal Behaviour

Advance praise: "Play will be to the twenty-first century what work was to the industrial age – our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value. Therefore we need play theory and research, of a multidisciplinary nature, that can deepen and widen our understanding of this most dynamic of human evolved capacities [...] Bateson and Martin have provided a wonderful resource for play/game advocates in all fields of life. Rooted in extremely solid biological and ethological research, they make subtle and powerful linkages between the mammalian basis of play, and the necessary profusion of social and cultural forms it generates, in ways that will help shape reform in areas diverse as childcare, innovative enterprise and drugs policy. Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation sets a new standard for studies of the power and potential of play."
- Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic



1. Introduction
2. The biology of play
3. The functions of play
4. Evolution and play
5. Creativity in humans
6. Animals finding novel solutions
7. People and organisations
8. Childhood play and creativity
9. Humour and playfulness
10. Dreams, drugs and creativity
11. Pulling the threads together


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Patrick Bateson FRS is Emeritus Professor of Ethology at the University of Cambridge. He is President of the Zoological Society of London and former Vice-President of the Royal Society. Much of his scientific career has been concerned with the development of behaviour. He is also co-author of Plasticity, Robustness, Development and Evolution.

Paul Martin studied behavioural biology at the University of Cambridge, before becoming a Harkness Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He has lectured and researched in behavioural biology at the University of Cambridge and is a former Fellow of Wolfson College.

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