Children are hard wired for gameplay. Freud observed, “Play is the child’s most useful tool for preparing himself for the future and its tasks.” Very soon after birth babies instinctively try interacting by playing. Their first form of play is mother and child eye contact, especially that very first, deep, and unrepeatable gaze when mother and child see into each other’s souls and fall deeply in love. Their play from then on is profoundly and mutually rewarded. Evolution dictates that smiling is rewarded for example. The same is true of hugs. So, naturally, the baby initiates more of these. 

It is startling to realize it, but these tiny human beings must be asking themselves ‘what if’ questions, without symbolic language. And that must mean that subconsciously, and at a very early-stage, behavioral game theory must be at work, helping make decisions in the baby’s developing mind. These games must be intuitively conducted thought-experiments just as surely as any of Einstein’s were. 

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Excerpted from my book Hybrid Learning.