Summary: Playful adults are better able to reinterpret situations and reduce stress in their lives, a new study reports.
Adults can positively utilise their inclination towards playfulness in many situations. They are good at observing, can easily see things from new perspectives, and can turn monotonous tasks into something interesting. At the same time, playfulness should not be equated with humour. Instead we need a new vocabulary to describe it, write psychologists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) in the current issue of the international journal Personality and Individual Differences.
Unlike research on playfulness in children, little research has been conducted on playfulness in adults. “Models of childhood playfulness have often been transferred to adults. This results in the loss of many aspects including those related to romantic relationships or intellectual performance,” explains Dr René Proyer from the Institute of Psychology at MLU. Playful people are able to reinterpret situations in their lives so that they experience them as entertaining or are able to reduce stress levels.
Proyer investigated this phenomenon in adults in many studies and surveys of around 3,000 people. He found that playfulness has an overlap, but no redundancy with the big five personality traits frequently used to describe personality. These include extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience and emotional stability. “Playfulness is an independent personality trait that shares certain aspects with these five global dimensions but which cannot be interchanged,” explains Proyer. The study also shows that people who describe themselves as playful are also viewed by others as such. Furthermore, playful people act out their propensity in many day-to-day situations.
The psychologist has identified four basic types of playful adults: “There are people who like to fool around with friends and acquaintances. We describe this as other-directed playfulness. By contrast, light-heartedly playful people regard their whole life as a type of game,” says Proyer. Another category includes people who like to play with thoughts and ideas – this describes intellectual playfulness. These people are able to turn monotonous tasks into something interesting. The psychologist describes the final group as being whimsically playful. “These people tend to be interested in strange and unusual things and are amused by small day-to-day observations.”
The studies reveal that playfulness in adults is expressed in very different ways and should be regarded as a positive trait. However, it has more negative connotations in the German-speaking world; playful people are sometimes not taken seriously or are seen as unreliable. Unjustly so, as Proyer relates: “When looking for solutions to complex problems, they can easily change perspectives. This allows them to find unusual and novel solutions.”
The current study also provides incentives for other areas of research, such as evolutionary psychology. Even though playfulness has no direct advantage for survival, it could play an important role when choosing partners and in romantic relationships. The psychologists from Halle will be devoting their energies to this topic in the coming months.
Source: Tom Leonhardt – MLU
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Original Research: Abstract for “A new structural model for the study of adult playfulness: Assessment and exploration of an understudied individual differences variable” by René T. Proyer in Personality and Individual Differences. Published online December 14 2016 doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.12.011
A new structural model for the study of adult playfulness: Assessment and exploration of an understudied individual differences variable
Adult playfulness is an understudied personality trait. A new 28-item questionnaire (the OLIW) is proposed that assesses four basic components; namely, Other-directed, Lighthearted, Intellectual, and Whimsical playfulness. Study 1 provides support for the factorial validity in an Exploratory (N = 628) and a Confirmatory Factor Analysis (N = 1168). Item- and scale-statistics were satisfactory. Correlations in the expected range with other playfulness questionnaires provide support for the convergent validity of the scale; there was between 3 and 30% shared variance with the big five personality traits. Test-retest reliabilities were between 0.67 and 0.87 for one-week, two-week, one-month, and three-month intervals (N = 200; using a reduced set of 12 items). Study 2 found convergence between self- and peer-reports in the expected range (i.e., 44–0.57). Participants in Study 3 (N = 295) collected daily behavior ratings for 14 days for Play, Aggression, Exhibitionism, and Impulsivity, and completed respective trait measures on day one. The OLIW demonstrated correlations between 0.29 and 0.36 for the aggregated behavior ratings, which was in the expected range. Overall, the findings for the psychometrics, reliability (internal consistency, test-retest), and validity (factorial, convergent, discriminant) are satisfactory and further use of the OLIW is encouraged.
“A new structural model for the study of adult playfulness: Assessment and exploration of an understudied individual differences variable” by René T. Proyer in Personality and Individual Differences. Published online December 14 2016 doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.12.011