Welcome to the American Journal of Play special issue exploring the inter-disciplinary field of cognitive neuroaesthetics, which has attracted artists and art historians, neuroscientists, psychologists, and other researchers. Special theme issues focus on important topics in the fast-developing study of play; each is guest edited by an expert on the topic; and each includes work by the leading scholars in the field. Art historian Phillip Prager assembled this issue with the help of those participating in a conference called “The Importance of Being Playful,” which he organized in 2012 under the auspices of the Minerva Foundation at the University of California, Berkeley.
The issue opens with two interviews. In the first, British polymath Margaret Boden talks about the roots of human creativity and the similarities and differences of animal and machine intelligence. In the second, entomologist and photographer Mark W. Moffett discusses the meaning of playfulness in relation to his work with ants, a species that appears not ever to play. In the issue’s lead article, guest editor Prager reexamines Bauhaus art and theory in light of the neuropsychology of play. Behavioral neuroscientists Sergio M. Pellis, Vivien C. Pellis, and Brett T. Himmler report on the ways rough-and-tumble play help make rats and primates more sociable, more flexible, and more cognitively sophisticated. Psychologists Adam Eichenbaum, Daphne Bavelier, and C. Shawn Green, all specialists in perceptual learning, show how playing video games enhances perceptual and cognitive skills in game players. And psycho-analyst (and performer) Victoria Stevens provides a summary of recent research in neuroscience and the role of combinatory play in generating new ideas and artistic forms. Taken together, these articles illustrate how strongly recent scholarship links play to creativity.