Playpractice Theory Of


PLAY, THEORIES OF. The term play has many different meanings (at least 55 distinguishable definitions). At the core of most definitions is the notion that play involves diversion or recreation and is an activity not necessarily to be taken seriously. Play is activity for its own sake and may be viewed, at least for children, as what they do when allowed to freely choose activity. An early theory of play - the instinctive theory, also called the theory of play-practice, formulated by the German-Swiss philosopher/psychologist Karl Theodor Groos (1861-1946) - states that play allows animals to perfect their instinctive skills and asserts that the very existence of youth is largely for the sake of play (cf., surplus energy theory - holds that play activities of human and subhuman young are due to the superabundance of energy in growing organisms. A more recent, similar theory, called competence theory - formulated by the American psychologist Robert White (1904- ? ) -argues the need for developmental competence or effectiveness in one's environment where play is one form of activity that helps in the maturation process. Another earlier theory, the recapitulation theory - developed by the American psychologist Granville Stanley Hall (1844-1924) - maintains that play is an evolutionary link between the child and all biological and cultural stages that have preceded human beings on the phylogenetic scale. The autotelic theory, or motivational model, stresses that play is an activity that is done for its own sake with the reward residing in the process itself. Although this approach recognizes ultimately useful outcomes of playful activity, it is concerned mainly with immediate satisfactions such as pleasure, fun, spontaneity, and reduction of uncertainty. An opposing viewpoint is that play is a useful activity that enhances the growth and development of an individual toward maturity and adulthood. Consistent with this perspective is Jean Pia-get's stage theory of cognitive development, which posits that at each stage of development certain types of play become predominant (cf., Froebelism - named after the German educator Friedrich W. A. Froebel (1782-1852) -refers to the use of instructive play at the kindergarten level). C. Hutt and H. Day describe a typology/taxonomy that distinguishes five forms of play: exploratory, creative, diversive, mimetic, and cathartic play (cf., practice theory of play, which states that the function of play is to give the organism practice on tasks that it will have to perform in earnest in later life); a principle is proposed, also, by which all activities can be measured along a playful-ness-workfulness continuum where the concept of playfulness may be employed as a method of comparing all forms of behavior including those observed on jobs and in games with the goal of identifying the motivation to participate in such activities. See also BEHAVIORAL THEORIES OF HUMOR/ LAUGHTER; HYDRAULIC THEORIES; PIAGET'S THEORY OF DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES; RECAPITULATION, THEORY/LAW OF. REFERENCES

York: Appleton. White, R. (1959). Motivation reconsidered: the concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66, 297-333. Piaget, J. (1963). The origins of intelligence in children. New York: Norton. Berlyne, D. (1969). Laughter, humor, and play. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology. Vol. 3. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Ellis, M. (1973). Why people play. Englewood

Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Bruner, J., Jolly, A., & Sylva, K. (Eds.)

(1976). Play - Its role in development and evolution. New York: Basic Books.

Societe, 2, 129-147. Sutton-Smith, B. (1980). Children's play: Some sources of play theorizing. In K. Rubin (Ed.), New directions for child development - children's play. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hutt, C. (1981). Toward a taxonomy and conceptual model of play. In H. Day (Ed.), Advances in intrinsic motivation and aesthetics. New York: Plenum.

Bates, C. (2002). Play in a godless world: The theory and practice of play in Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Freud. New York: Open Gate Press.

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