INTRODUCTION: Little is known about what adults perceive as core functions of playfulness in their daily life.
OBJECTIVE: To compile a list of perceived functions of playfulness from nominations of laypeople and to test the association of the productions with individual levels of playfulness as a personality trait.
METHOD: Three hundred and twenty-four adults aged 18 to 62 (M = 31.6, SD = 11.5) listed perceived functions of playfulness in five areas (leisure and work and when being with work colleagues, friends, and their partner) and completed a questionnaire for playfulness.
RESULTS: The entries were grouped into seven broader categories; namely, (1) well-being; (2) humor and laughter; (3) mastery orientation; (4) creativity; (5) relationships; (6) coping strategies; and (7) coping with situations. Women noted more functions than men (t(297) = 2.99, p < .01, d = 0.35) but there were no gender differences in the playfulness scale. Individual levels of playfulness correlated only for men with a greater number of functions, while it was uncorrelated in the sample of women.
CONCLUSION: People see a broad range of functions for playfulness in their daily lives. This warrants further investigation on potential benefits of adult playfulness.