The NIFP is following what nature wants us to know about play. We are looking to what the biological, social and physical sciences can tell us, so we can help unlock the transforming power of play. Play is as basic and as pervasive a natural phenomenon as sleep. Like sleeping and dreaming, it is ready to be examined as a whole.
This page overviews how we will go about this task and what we expect may emerge from that work.
A huge amount of existing scientific research -- from neurophysiology, developmental and cognitive psychology, to animal play behavior, and evolutionary and molecular biology - contains rich data on play. The existing research describes patterns and states of play and explains how play shapes our brains, creates our competencies, and ballasts our emotions. The research from these diverse areas of science must be integrated to depict human play mechanisms as a whole. The integration work will reveal critical gaps where additional basic research is required.
Through NIFP guided and sponsored research, develop a framework that clearly defines what constitutes the "state(s) of play," physiologically. This framework could be expected to indicate relationships between and demonstrate the benefits provided by the various patterns (types) of play.
Use the framework and the underlying research to develop practical applications that can have immediate and significant effect. Examples include relating the new knowledge to the necessity for particular types of play in preschool curricula, or the values to be gained by infusing play into corporate work. We want to apply the knowledge first to areas where the applications can have the most effect.