The Urge to Play

Echoes of the View

Children have a strong urge to explore because interacting with the environment is how the world gets put together. These models of reality we build in our brains are preconditioned by genes and development, but then honed to be fully useful once born and out in the world to play.

By playing with others, we build what Changeux called “shared social consciousness”. Living in the same culture, language and symbolic environment allows us to believe we know what others are thinking. Of course I’m usually way off the mark, because I’m thinking it not you, really. And my own shared consciousness is not that well shared, I guess.

All signs and signals get combined into chunks and simpler over time. That’s why you and I now can communicate with a subtle gesture or indirect, indiscreet use of words full of irony and sarcasm.

Play and make believe are safe simulations of life, where roles can be tried on for size and mistakes become jokes. Reward drives behavior. In knowing, in the pleasure of feeling right, in the social standing that results from social achievement are powerful reinforcers. You can see how this works in the very origins of language, in the role of speaking in forming deep personal bonds, in seeking approval. your facial expressions are my behavior cues.

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