Games Primates Play: An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships

By Graham, Kerrie Lewis | American Journal of Play, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Games Primates Play: An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships


Graham, Kerrie Lewis, American Journal of Play


Games Primates Play: An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships Dario Maestripieri New York: Basic Books, 2012. Contents, images, notes, references, index. 302 pp. $27.99 cloth. ISBN: 9780465020782

I should first make one thing plain: Dario Maestripieri's Games Primates Play is not a book about primate play behavior. In fact, the book mentions neither games nor playing-at least not in the sense of our collective pursuits as play research- ers. Rather, it concerns human relation- ships and social currencies. Thus "games" refers to human politicking, cooperation, and social-behavioral quirks. Why do we avoid eye contact with other people in ele- vators? What does the length of an e-mail response indicate about rank and status? How might taking a colleague to lunch trump work ethic alone in determining whether or not you receive a promotion at work? What does your ability to recover from a lover's tiff indicate about your rank in a romantic relationship? Maestripieri takes the reader on a journey through the social condition, using richly illustrative examples from other primate (and some nonprimate) species.

Each of the nine chapters deals in depth with one aspect of human rela- tionships, including dominance, nepo- tism, rank and status, cooperation, love, and social bonds. Each topic is discussed from an evolutionary perspective and uses animal models, candid observations, and oftentimes historical and cultural anecdotes. The narrative is rooted in the appropriate scientific literature, but acces- sibly so, making the overall effect a highly readable popular-science book. …

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