Do women love to shop more than men?

Let’s get this out of the way: no, not universally. The idea that women are naturally predisposed to shopping is a potentially harmful stereotype, and it certainly doesn’t apply to everyone.

With that said, however, there is sufficient data to show differences in shopping habits between the sexes. According to Psychology Today, a 2013 survey of 2,000 British people showed that men become bored after 26 minutes of shopping, while women took substantially longer—about two hours—to make their final purchases. Additionally, 80 percent of the men surveyed said that they didn’t enjoy shopping with their partners.

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That type of survey would seem to confirm the stereotypes. There are, of course, issues with any self-reporting survey, as the respondents might feel societal pressure when answering the questions (men, for instance, might purposely exaggerate their aversion to shopping in order to appear more traditionally masculine).

But according to at least one scientist, the stereotype does hold some truth.

Daniel Kruger, of the research faculty at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, believes that men and women developed different shopping skills over the course of human evolution.

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Yes, that’s right: Kruger says that societal evolution caused a divergence in the way that we shop.

“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.

Kruger claims that he decided to perform the study after taking a European shopping trip with several friends.

When his party reached Prague, the men wanted to sleep, while the women wanted to immediately head to the local shops.

“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.”

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Kruger believes that, early in human civilization, men primarily took on the role of hunters while women were the gatherers. Women in foraging societies learned to memorize the location of specific items (for instance, harvestable plants). Therefore, when they arrive in a new area, their impulse is to understand the location and value of all of the useful items.

Men, on the other hand, prioritized the instant gratification of the hunt. Their impulse is to shop for specific items, so they want to get in, grab the item, and get back home as quickly as possible.

Kruger admits that there’s no genetic component to these behaviors.

“The value [of the research] is in understanding each other—both your own shopping strategy and the strategy of the complimentary sex,” Kruger said. “It helps demystify behaviors. Guys, myself included, have been puzzled by why women shop the way they do.”

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Everyone’s different, and since there’s no genetic component whatsoever, we can still chalk this up to a societal stereotype. It also approaches the issue from a rather simplistic standpoint; many societies recognize more than two genders, and these types of theories are difficult, if not impossible, to prove.

There’s an even more compelling reason to doubt Kruger’s findings.

“There is still this wider perception that hunter-gatherers are more macho or male-dominated,” said anthropologist Mark Dyble of the University College in London. “We’d argue it was only with the emergence of agriculture, when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.”

Dyble’s recent work casts doubt on the idea that hunter-gatherer societies split duties among sex or gender lines.

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“Sexual equality is one of a important suite of changes to social organisation, including things like pair-bonding, our big, social brains, and language, that distinguishes humans,” he said. “It’s an important one that hasn’t really been highlighted before.”

We’re not picking on Kruger for attempting to address a common stereotype—there’s certainly value in that process, and an open dialogue is always a good thing. We’re just saying that if you love shopping, you probably don’t need to look back to the dawn of human civilization to figure out why.