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Male and female attitudes to shopping could not be further apart. From an evolutionary standpoint, the different shopping habits of the sexes can be traced right back to earlier times, when people still roamed the forests as hunter-gatherers. These are the findings of a study carried out by the University of Michigan.

The scientists involved in the study not only analysed a range of research, they also had students complete an online survey about their shopping habits and attitudes. The sexes used to have clearly defined roles when it came to obtaining food: the majority of men went hunting to provide the group with meat, whilst women gathered plant-based foods, roots, nuts and mushrooms in their immediate surroundings and looked after the children.

As mankind evolved, this division of labour led to the development of different skills, which still have a noticeable effect on modern consumer behaviour to this day. In hunter-gatherer societies, women would return time and again to places where they had once been able to harvest a great deal of food. They had to be shrewd and pick foods in the right colours and with the right characteristics to ensure they would be full of nutrients and enjoyable to eat.

Translated over into modern-day society, these skills mean that a woman is more likely to know when a product is on offer and in which shops, to compare prices and to spend more time on checking the quality of the product. Women used to work together every day, gathering food and involving their children in the process.

Nowadays too, the social aspect of shopping is important to women. When in an unfamiliar town they test out the new shopping opportunities on offer straightaway; a task in which most men would show very little interest. This is because men have a different strategy when it comes to shopping. They will often have a specific product in mind, buy it and then want to leave the supermarket without delay. In the broadest sense, this behaviour is comparable to that of a hunter who sniffs out his prey, hunts it down and then brings the meat home as quickly as possible. The scientists did emphasise that these attitudes and habits do not apply to every single man or woman.

But the theory could help you to understand the other sex a little better and to be a bit more relaxed the next time you attempt a shopping trip with your better half.

Source: Heike Kreutz,