The inculcation of adult playfulness: from west to east

Lynn A. Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The marvel of adult playfulness has incited vigorous research efforts to define, demarcate, and explain its essence; however, all have been conducted with Westernized societies whose values exalt individualistic thinking and self-expression. This study explored whether such formulations of playfulness can be communicated and ultimately embraced by individuals whose native cultural values are incompatible. Three groups of female graduate students with Chinese heritage, differing in their years of residence in the United States (all, most, or some of their lives), were compared with American counterparts in their recognition of, and reaction to, a playful (and nonplayful) actor. Results indicated that playfulness was transmitted to the Chinese women–they came to recognize its distinguishing characteristics and to favor the playful actor. Group differences suggested there may be critical periods in the transmission process. Issues about adult playfulness as socially constructed, sufficiently malleable to be communicated, or possessing trait-like properties were raised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-271
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Play
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2 2017


  • American culture
  • Chinese culture
  • Playfulness
  • acculturation
  • cultural norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology


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