As any female with a male relative, companion or friend will tell you, men hate to shop. Surprisingly, the behavior can be traced back to evolution, according to research conducted at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
By looking at shopping through the lens of evolutionary psychology, researcher Daniel Kruger was able to figure out why so many women enjoy spending hours flipping through clothing racks while men want to get out of the mall as fast as possible.
"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 observing his lady friends go immediately to the stores during a winter holiday trip across Europe.
Kruger found that the different foraging strategies for hunting and gathering used throughout human evolution translate into modern shopping patterns. Back in the day, women were traditionally responsible for the gathering aspect of the relationship, which involved daily foraging where women had to become adept at choosing the right color, texture and smell of foods to ensure their safety.
"Evolved foraging psychology underlies sex differences in shopping experiences and behaviors," writes Kruger, in the December issue of the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, & Cultural Psychology.
In modern times, women use this skill to look for the best bargains and to choose the perfect fabric, color and texture of a particular item.
Men, on the other hand, are traditionally hunters, a role that requires them to quickly locate a necessary item and return home as soon as possible with that item. That’s why men are more prone to pick the first thing they see while women will sit and debate the pros and cons of two different shades of blue lamps.
The study also found that women probably prefer to shop in groups because foraging has always traditionally been a social activity, complete with friends and kids.
So what’s the value in knowing the root cause of all of our shopping habits?
As Kruger explains, understanding your shopping strategy as well as the opposite sex’s can help demystify these behaviors.
"The value is in understanding each other,” Kruger said. "…[G]uys, myself included, have been puzzled by why women shop the way they do."