The science of P-L-A-Y
Humans are built for play -- the science that says play is critical to shaping our brains and helping us adapt to the unexpected.
The following is not a full transcript; for full story, listen to audio.
Dr. Stuart Brown is co-author of the new book, "Play -- How it Shapes Our Brains, Opens the Imagination, and Shapes the Soul." He's also the founder of the National Institute for Play. On "The Takeaway," he explains the science behind play:
"The evidence is broad. It starts objectively by watching animals at play and seeing what it does for them -- it improves their performance, immune system, their capacity to remember things. And if you follow that through to a human system, those same benefits appear to us -- particularly in fertile imagination, in a sense of optimism, in capacity to persevere and to do things that you enjoy -- are all by-products of play. And if you then hook someone up to a brain imaging machine you'll find out that when they're at play, the brain lights up more from that than virtually anything else they can do."
In the chapter, 'We Are Built for Play,' Dr. Brown writes: "If we stop playing, we share the fate of all animals that grow out of playing. Our behavior becomes fixed, we suddenly are not interested in new and different things; we find fewer opportunities to take pleasure in the world around us."
According to Dr. Brown, play is critical to our lives: "Imagine your life without play -- no books, no humor, no pub conversations, no movies, no spectator sports, no laughing with your kids or grandkids. And you begin to see ... the contributions of play to life itself ... and you find that it is a fertilizer of the brain."
Play can also be important in our work environment says Dr. Brown: "An open ... company that likes to play -- like Google or the Ideo company -- incorporates play completely into their planning and innovation, and into how it really nourishes that company's future and gives them fresh product."
And, play can help us in these tough economic times: "Here we are, fearful -- economic collapse -- it's the elephant in everybody's room, 'am I going to lose my job?' -- if we get fear based, and we don't access our playful imagination, we're not going to come up with solutions, which have to be fresh ... as far as I'm concerned, the very fact that we humans have play as a part of our nature is to help us adapt to the unexpected and help us be flexible for the future."
"The Takeaway" is PRI's new national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.
More at thetakeaway.org