The video linked below returns us to the question as to what is it about the body posture of the play bow that proves inviting and, we can approach this matter by way of a related question: How did the Play Bow evolve?
(hopefully the link above will work)
For example, if someone receives a written invitation to attend an event, there are specific words that convey that intent. Furthermore one can trace the evolution of the words and understand the path they’ve taken toward imparting the information. But behaviorists have never specified the exact mechanics of message transfer as they simply assume the play bow to be an invitation to play since play often ensues and which then leads to the additional assumption that it is an intentional act of communication. Meanwhile the second question has been treated as if it’s inconsequential. For example, it would take two individuals, one the transmitter of the signal and one the receiver of the signal, to simultaneously lower their guard so that they can get close and gain access to vulnerable body parts. There isn’t a slow incremental gradual set of steps that leads one to a lowering of defenses, it’s an all or nothing commitment and it must occur as a fully developed signal within two individuals at the same time. If the first volunteer of a play bow is encountering a predatory interactant that doesn’t recognize the signal and has no way to grasp any potential benefit for a peaceful interaction, well then that’s the end of the play bows’ evolutionary trajectory. Roger Abrantes theorizes that the play bow was probably borrowed from a maternal suite of reflexes, but this is simply an informed but otherwise idle conjecture given that it isn’t backed up by a long and solid line of reasoning. And it certainly doesn’t explain how a deer would recognize the maternal-filial communication signals of a canine as in the video below.
In some scientific circles play is purported to be practice for life skills. Meanwhile Bekoff puts forward a more complicated version theorizing that play is a chance for a dog to put itself in a disadvantageous position in order to practice for the unexpected. He says the play bow is a meta signal indicating that the behavior to follow is all in fun giving the playful one a license to practice what would otherwise be construed as aggressive behaviors as well as putting itself in compromising positions without the risk of being injured. However in the video above why is the deer drawn to the dog, is it logical to say that the deer is placing itself into a vulnerable position as practice for being hunted?
As I’ve noted earlier, my argument is like a geometry proof in which a theorem is applied to deduce the properties of a geometric object. Below is a logic stream in which if one thing is true than that which follows is also true.
(1) When stimulated an animal wants to move.
(2) In order to move, an animal must shift its weight.
(3) Unless physical equilibrium is reacquired, the individual is under an emotional strain under which emotional equilibrium cannot be reacquired.
(4) If (1), (2) and (3) are true, then the following are true as well.
(5) An animal doesn’t distinguish between a state of physical or emotional equilibrium because displacement of either requires movement and both are an emotional experience and an imbalance of either causes strain.
(6) This means that a stimulus is a source of force (physical motion + desire to move) that accelerates an individual into motion. We could call this force “emotional momentum.”
(7) Momentum (either physical or emotional as both are synonymous) commits the Mind to a Forward Point that the Body MUST occupy to remain upright and sustain forward motion in order to return to a state of emotional equilibrium and neutralize strain.
(8) The individual autonomically projects a feeling for its body’s center-of-gravity (p-cog) to this Forward Point (e-cog) because the feat of locomotion cannot otherwise happen. This is an act of emotional projection.
(9) Therefore, a stimulus is invested with a Forward Point (e-cog) that the subject’s body must occupy in order to remain upright and sustain forward motion in order to return to a state of emotional equilibrium and neutralize strain.
(10) In order to restore a sense of emotional equilibrium, the Deer finds itself attracted to the dog since it is a stimulus that has impressed upon the deer a quotient of emotional momentum and which compels the act of emotional projection so that it can perceive how to move relative to the dog to reacquire a state of emotional equilibrium and reduce emotional strain.
(11) The deportment of the stimulus’ body reveals to the subject, by way of emotional projection, whether it has access to that Forward Point that correspond’s to the objects’ center-of-gravity.
So the deer is attracted to the dog (and vice versa) and the body posture of the object reveals access to the Forward Point. Note that the deer as it approaches the dog stomps the ground with its forelegs, this is because it is testing the viability of the ground it’s about to cover as it tries to consummate the state of attraction by reclaiming the Forward Point. It’s testing the soundness of the ground because a state of emotional and physical equilibrium are synonymous in the body/mind of an animal. This stomping is on the same behavioral continuum as antelopes and gazelles stotting when they approach lions. The dog is an Obstacle-of-Resistance that invests the deer with emotional momentum, and which thereby calls into question the viability of the ground it is standing on since the deer’s sense of emotional equilibrium (and therefore physical equilibrium) has been challenged by being stimulated. If the deer is able to accelerate the Object-of-Resistance into motion, this will restore within the deer a state of emotional equilibrium since the stimulus is discharging the emotional momentum in the system, which is destabilizing it, and which by way of emotional projection, is a vicarious extension of its own body. The deer finds itself not only attracted to the dog, but fine-tuning its actions in a way that will promote affiliative behavior in the dog because the inverse and reciprocal process is underway within the dog as well since emotion works the same way in all organisms.
Furthermore, in this interaction we can see the evolutionary antecedent of the play bow expressed by the deer in its most undeveloped stage, then being reciprocated by the dog in its most highly evolved expression. We can see a clear developmental continuum between two widely divergent species and how it could evolve without any risk of exposure between interactants since it flows seamlessly from the basic operating system by which all animals make their way and respond to stimuli. The deer and dog can communicate in a meaningful way even though they are of different species since the oldest relationship between organisms is the predator/prey relationship, vastly older than the maternal/offspring relationship that Abrantes is leaning toward. In other words, all relationships (male/female–parent/offspring–peer-to-peer) evolved from the oldest one, the predator/prey dynamic. Architecturally, this can most accurately be discussed as a thermodynamic phenomenon, i.e. energy moving from a warm pole (predator) toward a cooler pole (prey.)
Since the deer is invested with emotional momentum, attributed by the deer to the dog as the source of the force that displaced its sense of emotional equilibrium, and since the dog is reconfiguring its body by amplifying its hind end, thus, the deer feels it can occupy that Forward Point it has painted onto the dog. The dog is absorbing emotional momentum through that particular body position. Paradoxically as it might first appear, the dog is acting prey like and the deer is acting from the predator polarity. (Note that the dog’s play bow is lowering its head which is the predatory aspect of the body form, and accentuating the rump which is the preyful aspect of the body form. At the same time its shoulders are flexed and supple. The forequarters are the body region most responsible for resisting the imposition of an emotional strain. If the dog’s shoulders are soft, therefore that body space around the dog’s physical center-of-gravity feels accessible. The deer feels safe to approach the dog while testing the ground as it proceeds, and we can also see that the young buck wants to butt the dog with its horns just as a dog would want to grip something it’s attracted to with its teeth, again confirming the deer is operating from the Predator Polarity. Meanwhile, by stomping the ground it collapses the state of resistance between them so that the dog’s frame of mind collapses into a new frame of mind, i.e. moving in an orbit about the deer. The deer perceives that its expression of force (going forward and stomping the ground) accelerates the dog into motion and therefore it can control the force that is acting on it. By orbiting the deer, the dog is moving in a coherent way that makes the deer feel empowered, energized because this circular movement reduces emotional strain. We can see a weak state of affiliation emerging for a brief period of time. However since the deer doesn’t have enough emotional capacity to sustain its predatory behavior and be able to flip back and forth to the prey polarity as a dog is so able to do, when the intensity of stimulation gets too high, it fulfills its attraction to the dog by running away and this loosens its shoulders.