Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Male and Female Shopping Strategies Show Evolution at Work in the Mall

Evolution continues to lead scientists to crucial new findings. Consider the latest ground-breaking research on shopping strategies:

Daniel Kruger, research faculty at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, says it's perfectly natural that men often can't distinguish a sage sock from a beige sock or that sometimes women can't tell if the shoe department is due north or west from the escalator.

From an evolutionary perspective, it all harkens back to the skills that women used for gathering plant foods and the skills that men used for hunting meat. The contrast emerges because of the different foraging strategies for hunting and gathering used throughout human evolution.

Sex-specific strategies can be seen in the modern consumer environment, according to Kruger's new study, "Evolved foraging psychology underlies sex differences in shopping experiences and behaviors," scheduled for the December issue of the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, & Cultural Psychology.

The study examines shopping through the framework of evolutionary psychology to understand why so many more women enjoy spending a day picking through racks of clothes with friends, while most men can't get out of the mall fast enough.

So evolution creates the hunting and gathering strategies. Amazing. But there's more:

"We have evidence that the kind of skills, abilities and behaviors that are important for hunting and gathering in current foraging societies emerge predictably in our modern consumer environment," said Kruger, who decided to conduct the study after a winter holiday trip with friends across Europe.

After exploring sleepy little villages and reaching Prague, the first thing the women wanted to do was shop, Kruger said, and the men couldn't understand why.

"But that is not so unreasonable if you're thinking about a gathering strategy," Kruger said. "Anytime you come into a new area you want to scope out the landscape and find out where the food patches are."

So the shopping habits of women actually are not unreasonable after all. Thankfully evolutionists are enlightening the rest of us about these profound truths.


  1. Again, the original source...

    We have summarized the differential attributes of gathering and hunting foraging strategies in Table 1
    The sexually divergent adaptations for gathering and hunting may be evident in reports of shopping experiences, as shopping could be considered a form of foraging in the modern consumer environment. Although these adaptations originated for activities related to food production, we expect them to generalize to a wider range of consumer products. Women will rely on object oriented navigation strategies more so thanEuclidean navigation strategies, whereas men will demonstrate the opposite pattern. Women will report shopping strategies and experiences that resemble gathering skills and behaviors more so than men. Men, in turn, will report shopping strategies and experiences that resemble hunting skills and behaviors to a greater degree than women. Additionally, women will see shopping as both recreational and socialization events more so than men, and should be more likely to see newly encountered areas as opportunities for shopping.


    Undergraduate students (N = 467, 298 females and 169 males) at two large Mid-Western American public universities and who were enrolled in introductory psychology classes participated in an institutionally approved on-line survey at their convenience.


    Materials and Procedure
    Seven scales were developed to assess sex differences in shopping experiences and behaviors consistent with ancestral foraging patterns: Euclidean navigation strategies, object oriented navigation strategies, gathering skills and behaviors, hunting skills and behaviors, shopping as recreation, shopping as socialization, and new areas as shopping opportunities.

    All scales except for hunting skills and behaviors demonstrated good or excellent interitem reliability (see Table 2). Reverse scored items demonstrated a significant inverse relationship in every within-scale pair-wise correlation.

  2. You just cant make this stuff up. Or, if you are a scientist, maybe you can!

  3. I am curious, if the author of this paper used the term "tradition" as opposed to "evolution" would that have appeased the ID proponents?

    Hopefully, things haven't gotten to the point that ID proponents would argue against the notion of successful traditions tending to survive and be passed on whereas unsuccessful traditions would not.

    I wouldn't call this ground breaking research.

    I also don't see this as biological and I don't see the authors suggesting it either.

    There is evidence of traditional roles and habits for women versus men.

    What is your hypothesis as to why this is so?

  4. I give this paper a meh. It is a interesting interpretation of differences between women and men-maybe a bit of handwaving.

    Though, if you want to read some actually interesting (hence why she gets published in Nature, and this is in Whatever Journal C) evolutionary psychology, try the research of Sarah Brosnan and colleagues . In short, she is tracing the evolutionary origins of fairness and justice in non-human primates.

    Owen, Jones D. and Brosnan, Sarah F. (2008). Law, biology, and property: A new theory of the endowment effect. William and Mary Law Review 49: 1935-1990.

    Brosnan, Sarah F., Grady, Mark, Lambeth, Susan P., Schapiro, Steven J., and Beran, Michael J. (2008) Chimpanzee Autarky. PLoS ONE 3(1): e1518. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001518.

    van Wolkenten, Megan, Brosnan, Sarah F., and de Waal, Frans B. M. (2007) Inequity responses of monkeys modified by effort. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 18854-18859.

    Brosnan, Sarah F. (2006) Nonhuman species' reactions to inequity and their implications for fairness. Journal
    of Social Justice 19: 153-185.

    Brosnan, Sarah F., Freeman, Cassie, and de Waal, Frans B. M. (2006) Capuchin monkey's (Cebus apella) reactions to inequity in an unrestricted barpull situation. American Journal of Primatology 68: 713-724.

    Silk, Joan B. Brosnan, Sarah F., Vonk, Jennifer, Henrich, Joseph, Povinelli, Daniel, Lambeth, Susan, Richardson, Amanda, Mascaro, Jenny, and Shapiro, Steve (2005) Chimpanzees are indifferent to the welfare of unrelated group members. Nature 437: 1357-1359.

  5. I wonder: what's the "evolutionary psychology" "explanation" for a propensity to telling Just-So Stories?

  6. "What is your hypothesis as to why this is so?"

    Ah! The traditional cri de coeur of the wounded and disoriented DarwinDefender!

  7. "I wonder: what's the "evolutionary psychology" "explanation" for a propensity to telling Just-So Stories?"


    That is why I prefer experimental strategies....

  8. And yet, you're a DarwinDefender.

  9. Hi Ilion,

    If you haven't noticed, we are far from "wounded and disoriented" over this paper.

    It hardly rates a "so what?"

    My curiosity was whether or not ID proponents would see this as something to fear or otherwise find disturbing.

    Let's see if I can liven things up a little bit.

    Did you know Methodism and Islam are part of a nested hierarchy traceable to a common source?


    These religions have evolved over the years to become separate and distinct entities.

    i.e. EVOLUTION!

  10. Thought provoker-

    I'm intrigued, but not touching that with a ten-foot pole. I'll leave that to the religious.

  11. Darren:

    You just cant make this stuff up. Or, if you are a scientist, maybe you can!

    If you are an *evolutionist*.

  12. Ilíon:

    "What is your hypothesis as to why this is so?"

    Ah! The traditional cri de coeur of the wounded and disoriented DarwinDefender!

    Precisely and hilarious. If I just had a nickel for every time evolutionists have resorted to this fallacy.

  13. "Precisely and hilarious. If I just had a nickel for every time evolutionists have resorted to this fallacy."

    Here on your blog, just within the past few days, I have explicitly spelled out -- to the very same individuals -- the point I was making with the quip.

    And they continue to behave as though don't get the point.

    Now, there are only three general categories of explanation for why a person would behave as he though don't get a point:
    1) inability -- he really doesn't get it, because he is constitutionally incapable of ever getting it;
    2) ignorance/misunderstanding -- he really doesn't get it, because he is lacks understanding of some logically prior point;
    3) disinclination -- he hasn't attempted to get the point; OR, he does get it, but prefers for some reason to behave as though he does not.

  14. Hi Cornelius Hunter and Ilíon,

    Allow me to offer my explanation for asking the question.

    I like to explore. It’s similar to the joy of spelunking.

    But instead of exploring caves, I explore ideas.

    I explore the Evolution cave to a reasonable depth but when I come out, there are sign carrying protesters calling the cave a fraud saying it doesn’t go anywhere.

    I ask for directions to a better cave. After a lot of hand waving and general avoidance I realize they aren’t going to make a suggestion. So I set off to explore the Quantum Mechanics cave which I find extremely interesting.

    When I come out I tell the sign carrying protesters about this extraordinary cave. While some show a little interest, none of the protesters join me in my explorations. However, some of the people arguing with the protesters do. In fact, some appear to have a fair amount of familiarity with the cave.

    Upon exiting, we find the protesters complaining about a smaller cave named Evolutionary Philosophy. This time I know of a similar cave and suggest we try that. My fellow explorer is “intrigued” but recognizes that it is dangerous. However, someone with a strong religious back ground should be able to navigate it.

    How do the protesters, who generally have a religious background, react? They show no inclination to explore the religious cave and strongly reject suggesting of exploring any cave.

    Ironical, some of these protesters claim to be experts at the kind of spelunking we explorers like to engage in.

    Hopefully, this helps explain my motivations.

    Do you know of any caves you would like to explore?

  15. The most troubling fact about "studies" like this is that they are taken seriously -by Darwiners. Especially that poor deluded lot that thinks evolutionary pschology is actually science.

  16. "Do you know of any caves you would like to explore?"

    I am a creature of the light ... caves, even when they're real, have nothing to do with living in the light.