Although we cherish playful personalities among children, new research suggest we value the same lightheartedness among the individual we chose to be our partner.
Playful adults are fond of wordplay, like improvising, approach a challenge cheerfully, take pleasure in unusual things, deal with others in a playful way, enjoy teasing — and create situations in which they and others are entertained. In short, playfulness in humans has many facets.
In psychology, however, comparatively little research has been conducted into playfulness in adulthood.
Dr. Garry Chick, an anthropologist from Pennsylvania State University, developed a new theory that playfulness in adults is a desirable trait in sexual selection.
He believes that women view a playfulness trait as an indicator of a low level of aggression in men while men see the behaviors as influencing vitality in women. An initial study including surveys conducted among American students supported the hypothesis.
Now, a new research effort by Dr. René Proyer and graduate student Lisa Wagner, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Zurich (UZH), shows that playfulness also plays an important role in the choice of a partner in the European culture.
Their research is published in the American Journal of Play.
The UZH researchers conducted their follow-up study with 327 young adults from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
The participants were asked to examine a list of 16 characteristics and indicate whether or not they found them desirable in a future or potential partner for long-term relationships.
The results showed that men and women largely agreed in their orders of preference — although there were differences in individual ratings. That is, women found a sense of humor more important than men and men found an exciting personality more important than women.
Friendliness, intelligence, humor, and a fun tendency came at the top of the list. Playfulness ranked in the middle, although not all that far behind the favorites.
“Therefore, this personality trait also seems important for the choice of partner — at least more so than the partner having a degree, good genes, or being religious,” said Proyer.
Moreover, further analyses revealed that participants who described themselves as playful also valued playfulness, humor, a laid-back attitude, a fun tendency, and creativity among potential partners themselves.
And the participants who were in relationships assessed themselves as more playful than those who were currently single.
“Although we should be cautious while interpreting the data, this could be an indication that playful people are actually perceived as more attractive partners or that playfulness increasingly develops in the relationship,” Proyer said.
Source: University of Zurich/EurekAlert