A recent study has found that playfulness — which includes having a "sense of humor," a "playful" attitude, or a keen and abiding love of "fun" — is among the most coveted character traits for potential mates, both men and women. A survey of 250 undergraduate students found that playfulness was the usually the most important thing people looked for in a long-term partner, probably because nobody wants to be yoked to a humorless asshole who insists on fortifying weekly readings of Goethe for the rest of their natural lives.
The results, say researchers, might explain why people, unlike other animals that have to worry about not succumbing to a violent death in the wilderness on an almost constant basis, continue to play throughout their lives, rather than just during childhood. Playfulness, like any other attractive quality, is meant to show a potential mate that you are a) relatively non-aggressive and b) not old, decrepit and, therefore, incapable of helping forge an army of industrious little field hands in the fires of your loins. So far so sensible, but lead study author Gary Chick from the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State has to go and frame his findings in the most gender-normative way possible:
Just as birds display bright plumage or coloration, men may attract women by showing off expensive cars or clothing. In the same vein, playfulness in a male may signal to females that he is non-aggressive and less likely to harm them or their offspring. A woman's playfulness, on the other hand, may signal her youth and fertility.
Bah. Things were going so well, too. Men ranked "sense of humor" as the most important quality a woman could have, a trait followed closely by "playfulness" and "kindness" ("physical attraction" was pretty far down on the list, ranking ninth out of a possible 13 traits). It's fun to speculate about what atavistic reasons make "playfulness" such an attractive quality, but the answer in this case is probably pretty simple — most people like to laugh, and, given the fact that a lot of modern people have at least a little extra not-running-away-from-feral-dogs time to joke around with each other, they'd rather while away the hours of their lives with someone who's not a complete bore.
Playful people ‘more attractive' [Telegraph]
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