Play is sexy

Semiotics is the study of signs and signals and in some senses human behaviour is all about semiotics. We signal subliminal meaning to others with just about everything we do. This is particularly true on the level of “sexual attraction” because mating has such deep evolutionary roots that have sprouted into behaviours honed and hardened by the millennia. Now a new study has found that sexual semiotics might be partially behind why we engage in play.

The study by researchers at Penn State University involved more than 250 female and male subjects aged between 18 and 26. The subjects were given a list of traits that might, or might not, be found attractive in prospective mates.

The results showed that for women “sense of humour”, “fun loving”, and “playful” ranked as second, third, and fourth as the traits they seek in males.

Men also ranked each of these three playful qualities highly but they more highly rated “physically attractive”, “healthy”, and “good heredity”.

The theory goes that playfulness in a man may signal to a woman that he is non-aggressive and not likely to harm either her or her children. At the same time play, if carefully chosen, could exhibit strength, agility, sharp reflexes, wit, and any number of other desirable qualities. By valuing playfulness and physical signs of health a man is possibly looking for signals of youth and fertility.

Suddenly football makes perfect sense.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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