Just in time for the holidays

The sociobiologists have shown that women’s and men’s different “shopping styles” are rooted in our distant evolutionary past. Man-the-hunter wants to shop for specific items, quickly, and then drag his kill home. Woman-the-gatherer, by contrast, spends hours “trying to find the right outfit, present or object, because [she] had in the past spent ages trying to find the best quality and health giving foods.” The study’s lead author, Daniel Kruger, hopes that understanding each other’s shopping strategies will help men and women to avoid arguments during the Christmas rush. Helpful research, indeed! Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on how our Stone Age ancestors managed to find a good parking spot at the mall.

8 thoughts on “Just in time for the holidays

  1. Does anyone else have a problem with the way conclusions were made in this research? Personally, I think it is just silly and can’t believe it got published. Are we still titillated by these kind of sociobiological claims at the end of 2009?

    I would question why these kinds of behaviors implied a hereditary basis in the past or the present.

  2. It’s a good study. If I ever leave something lying around and cannot find it, I will call a man, because he should be able to get a visual image in mind and recover it straight away. I am often leaving things in the wrong places. Sometimes it’s an item of clothing, but more often than not, it is my car keys. A man should be able to seek it out and recover it for me. On the other hand, leave the purchase of real estate and cars to me, as I am more likely to take my time and to be discriminating.

  3. Um, you’re kidding, right? This same “research” gets trotted out by the Torygraph pretty much every holiday season. It’s nothing but inane essentialism.

  4. Oh and sorry, Jennifer, but according to the ‘graph’s department of Scientific Woman In-Place-Putting, you’re an evolutionary freak, because it’s men who, back on hte savannah, were conditioned to not find car keys.

    Here’s an earlier chapter in the paper’s ongoing commitment to classify all the jobs that women are expected to do for men as “scietifically womne’s work”, and a great take down of it by Amanda Marcotte.

    All these “stories” fall down at the first hurdle, anyway: there is no mention of the alleged paper’s actual title, no link to the publication, nothing, in short, to indicate that this is not just a journalist calling up a scientist and asking him to put his name to an already pre-written set of quotes. Not that actual research is always good and/or correct, but if the paper can’t even produce evidence to show that there’s been some, I would err on the side of skepticism every time.

  5. Here’s a link to the paper: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~kruger/Kruger_Evolution_and_Shopping.pdf The study seems to have consisted in 467 college students answering a list of questions about whether they enjoy going to the mall with their friends. The link to hunters and gatherers is indeed made by the scientist himself (i.e. this is not just a journalist making conjectures) who argues that the data from the study is consistent with what he claims is known about hunters and gatherers, as well as with “an abundant literature on sex differences in spatial abilities and object location”.

    Apart from the highly dubious conclusions drawn from this study, I’m yet to be convinced that women (on average) really enjoy shopping more than men. I’m willing to believe this when it comes to shopping for clothes (again, as an average trend but most certainly not as a universal trait) but are the results the same when shopping for other kinds of items is included? Are Sunday afternoons spent car-shopping more enjoyed by women than men? What about shopping at hardware stores? Or shopping for electronic gadgets? It’s a serious flaw in the basic premise of this theory if the content at which the studied behavior is directed (and that content’s cultural implications) has been completely overlooked as a potentially relevant factor.

    Am I the only one having trouble finding the similarities between shopping and gathering? I have to say that I enjoy gathering berries and find a few hours doing that to be very relaxing (though I’m sure I’d feel differently about it if I had to do it for a living). An afternoon spent Christmas shopping, however, is something I’m dreading immensely at the moment and I know I’ll be very far from relaxed at its end.

  6. It’s funny how much these stereotypes persist even when ones personal experience is full of evidence to the contrary. in my larger social circle, guys are the major shoppers. most of the guys collect records, they will spend hours pouring over used records and later cds, but still love that pretty vinyl, and will go from store to store. they spend whole weekends that way! i always wondered how they could spend so much time shopping! they don’t think of it as shopping, though, which is interesting to me. I could go on with more examples (like comics) but i wonder if anyone would agree with me that it as again a problem of women’s persuits being belittled. we waste hours shopping away our emotional distress, or what have you, while men shop for a REASON

  7. It’s not so much a question of women’s pursuits being belittled as finding a pursuit to belittle and then claiming that it’s a women’s one. So the thing that women are “evolved” to do better is the shopping that they do when they shop, whereas when men shop it’s not really shopping because they’re not evolved to be good at that so they ca n’t be because duh, evolution.

    It does make about as much sense as that, and at the bottom of it is the desire to lock women into performing the sort of boring, maintenance shopping that they often perform for the household (and therefore men) – buying the groceries, shopping for insurance, Christmas presents for dull relatives etc. It’s easier to justify expecting the woman in your life do the drudge work if you convince yourself that not only does she enjoy it, but she’s better at buying your socks for you. (conversely it’s easier to avoid the resenment that often comes with unequal division of labour on the same grounds, so women are just as likely to fall for this type of thinking as men)

  8. Oh and sorry, Jennifer, but according to the ‘graph’s department of Scientific Woman In-Place-Putting, you’re an evolutionary freak, because it’s men who, back on hte savannah, were conditioned to not find car keys.

    Be assured that if I lose my car keys, I will give the man a map of the house in order to find them. I believe that one should try to facilitate the male’s development in every way.

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