Hunting & Gathering @ Supermarkets

18May10

Many moons ago, men and women did not have shopping carts, coupons or even money to secure food for the family. As most learned in school, the basic family unit did something known as hunting & gathering. The men would grab their spears and head off into the wild looking for game, large & small. The women would tend the home fires and in between adding a log or three to the fire in their under furnished cave dwelling, they were breast feeding the wee ones and whipping up a delightful meal lacking in variety. I their spare time,  they would wander about picking fruits and veggies. They men were hunting, the women were gathering. There will be some who read this article and figure it has been down hill since those times.

However viewed, the concept of hunting and gathering was more than an economic imperative. It was a necessary evolutionary step for survival. At least that’s what the scientists used to say. Now there is evidence to suggest this evolutionary process was, and is, hard wired in humans.

Renowned Mexican scientist Louis Pacheco-Cobos geared up some mushroom gatherers in the state of Tlaxcala with some fancy techie toys. He them monitored them as they went about their business of gathering. Using the data from this, he determined that both men and women secured roughly the same amount of mushrooms, but how they achieved their own results varied by sex. The men traveled farther, climbed higher and used up to 70% more energy. It was how the two sexes navigated to their goal that made the difference so apparent.

Women navigated using landmarks. They also made more frequent stops and seemed to find smaller batches of mushrooms. The men navigated by imaging themselves within the landscape and knowing their relative position. They made less frequent stops, but found larger troves of mushrooms. They had foregone small batches for mushrooms for bigger ones. On return trips to home, the men would take a direct route, the women would retrace their steps using those landmarks. Pacheco-Cobos theorized the men’s response was more in keeping with hunting game while the women would enjoy the practicality of re-visiting areas where food had been found previously, is more in keeping with gathering.

How does this impact the modern supermarket shopper?

It seems humans carry these practices over into our modern shopping techniques. While the man simply hunts for an intended item, a woman will methodically work through a supermarket filling the cart as she moves. In short, women are much better at finding everything a family needs while the man’s single objective method is best left to running out for, say a quart of milk or a case of beer, rather than a week’s worth of groceries. Men go hunting, women go gathering.
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