Videos from 2018 Annual Conference

Peter Gray Keynote


TASP – The Association for the Study of Play   44th Annual International Conference

“The Promise of Play”

“Play” is a word commonly used to refer to children’s preferred activities and to some adult activities.  But what, really, is play?  In this talk I will define play as activity that (1) self-chosen and self-directed; (2) motivated by means more than ends; (3) guided by mental rules; (4) imaginative; and (5) conducted in an alert, active, but relatively non-stressed frame of mind.  I will describe these characteristics and show how each of them contributes to play’s educational and developmental value.  I will explain why play came about, in natural selection, to promote children’s healthy physical, intellectual, social, and emotional growth.  I will also explain why age-mixed play among children and adolescents is especially valuable, for both the younger and older players.

Professor Gray joined the Boston College faculty in the Fall of 1972 and taught regularly until the Spring of 2002. He is author of Psychology, an introductory textbook now in its sixth edition, and, most recently, Free To Learn: Why Unleasing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. His past research had to do with basic mammalian motivational mechanisms, and his present research has to do with children’s play and its educative value. Professor Gray is now retired from regular teaching, but continues to conduct and publish research and give guest lectures.

Tom Henricks Keynote


TASP – The Association for the Study of Play    44th Annual International Conference

“What we “realize” when we play: Selves, relationships, meanings – and other matters?

Play studies centers on questions of what play is, why people (and other species) do it, and what consequences that behavior has. In this session, participants reconsider those questions. The session begins with an overview of Brian Sutton-Smith’s classic work The Ambiguity of Play, which emphasizes the variability of play behaviors and describes seven traditions of play scholarship.  Then the session leader discusses his own (continuing) attempts to develop a general theory of play, especially as expressed in the 2015 book, Play and the Human Condition. That book argues that play constitutes a particular pathway of “self-realization” that distinguishes it from other basic behaviors. As important as self-realization (comprehending one’s possibilities as a person) is, there are other things that play is “about.”  The session also considers “relationships” (our involvements in the world), “meanings” (strategies for comprehending/responding to worldly occurrences), and “emotions” (the theme of Sutton-Smith’s last writing). Participants are asked to reflect on (through informal writing) what they consider to be key dimensions and meanings of play. These reflections lead to general discussion about a range of themes, including play’s character and implications; the pertinence of theory to research and practice; and needed directions for play scholarship.

Tom Henricks is Danieley Professor of Sociology at Elon University.  Much of his scholarship has focused on the nature of human play, particularly as that activity can be contrasted to other pathways for human expression.  More generally, he studies the construction of experience and self-awareness. He has authored numerous writings on play, including the 2015 book “Play and the Human Condition”. He is also a co-editor of the 2015 “Handbook of the Study of Play”.