Thursday, August 30, 2007

Evolution explains why women like shopping

WOMEN really are better than men at shopping. And they really do prefer pink. And, surprisingly, it is possible that these facts are connected. The first conclusion was drawn by Joshua New of Yale University and his colleagues. The second was drawn by Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling of Newcastle University in England. The connecting theme is that in the division of labour that forms the primordial bargain of human hunter-gatherer societies, it is the men who do the hunting and the women who do the gathering.

Blackberry-picking aside, urban humanity does little gathering from the wild these days, so Dr New decided to look at what seemed to him to be the nearest equivalent—shopping at a farmers' market. There is a fair amount of evidence that men are better than women at solving certain sorts of spatial problems, such as remembering the locations of topographical landmarks. Many researchers suggest such skills may have been important in the past for man-the-hunter, who needed to be able to find his way round the landscape. If that is the case, then woman-the-gatherer might have been expected to develop complementary skills not shown by males. And that, as he writes in this week's Proceedings of the Royal Society, is what Dr New found. . . . .

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