Rough and Tumble Play and the Development of Social Competency


March 13, 2008 :: Sergio Pellis
Moderated by Susan Lingle

Young animals of many species, including humans, devote up to 25% of their lives to play. Yet parents and institutions often discourage play, especially when it involves rough-housing, and instead encourage children to focus on what they view as more serious forms of enrichment. But is play simply a childish waste of time? The evidence from research on non-human animals suggests that for some species, such as rats and monkeys, the answer is no. The experience of rough-and-tumble play, in particular, is necessary for the proper development of the brain mechanisms that are essential for regulating competent social behaviour. Given that similar brain mechanisms are involved in the social behaviour of humans, it may well be that denying children the opportunity for such play could be deleterious to their cognitive and social development.

Speaker: Sergio Pellis

Dr. Sergio Pellis has been on the faculty of the University of Lethbridge since 1990 and currently holds a Board of Governor’s Research Chair in the Department of Neuroscience. He first began exploring the mysteries of play in Australian magpies thirty years ago. Since that time, he has made detailed studies of play in a multitude of species, including many rodents and many primates. He and his wife, Dr. Vivien Pellis, are currently completing a book that highlights their work in this field titled “Making a Playful Brain”.

Dr. Pellis is an Associate Editor of the journal Aggressive Behavior and a Consulting Editor for Journal of Comparative Psychology and International Journal of Comparative Psychology. His publications include 142 research papers in scientific journals with about half of those publications being on play behaviour.


Time: 12 noon - 1:30 p.m.
Cost $10 (includes lunch)


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