2012 Conference on Neuroesthetics
Marc Bekoff is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado and a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society. In 2000 he was awarded the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society for major long-term contributions to the field of animal behavior. He also has been a Guggenheim Fellow.
Marc has published over 300 scientific and popular essays and 22 books including: The Emotional Lives of Animals, Animals at Play: Rules of the Game (an award-winning children's book), Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (with Jessica Pierce), The Animal Manifesto, and the Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships.
Marc has written some articles about play including 'Play, Play, and Play Some More: Let Children be the Animals They Have the Right to Be' – read Marc's article and The Need For "Wild" Play – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201202/the-need-wild-play-let-children-be-the-animals-they-need-be
Marc Bekoff and Jane Goodall (EETA): www.ethologicalethics.org
Title of Talk: Animals at Play: Why Joy and Fairness are the Names of the Game
Nonhuman animals clearly enjoy playing and play is important for social, physical, and cognitive development. Although play is fun, it's also serious business. When animals play, they are constantly working to understand and follow the rules and to communicate their intentions to play fairly. They fine-tune their behavior on the run, carefully monitoring the behavior of their play partners and paying close attention to infractions of the agreed-upon rules. Four basic aspects of fair play (wild justice) are: Ask first, be honest, follow the rules, and admit you're wrong. When the rules of play are violated, and when fairness breaks down, so does play. Detailed research on social play in infant domestic dogs and their wild relatives, coyotes and gray wolves, shows how just how important the rules are. Frame-by-frame analyses of videos of individuals at play reveal that these youngsters carefully negotiate social play and use specific signals and rules so that play doesn't escalate into fighting.
My long-term field research on coyotes living in the Grand Teton National Park, near Jackson, Wyoming shows that coyotes who don't play fairly often leave their pack because they don't form strong social bonds. Such loners suffer higher mortality than those who remain with others. The parallels between human and animal play, and the shared capacity to understand and behave according to rules of right and wrong conduct, are striking.