It was like a typical evening of any modern family. The teenaged boy was tapping on his phone vigorously while his sister kept scrolling on her own device.
“Look, I just hunted a dinosaur!”, the sense of achievement on the boy’s face was unmistakable. “Let me see”, the girl put down her own device and starting tapping on her brother’s.
After a couple of minutes, she returned the phone to her brother, uttering “boring” in a disinterested tone and resumed scrolling the shopping items on an online store on her own phone.
Hunters and gatherers
During much of our evolutionary history, men have predominantly been hunters and women have predominantly been gatherers of food. So, men have evolved physical and psychological traits that help them with hunting and women have evolved traits that help them with gathering plant-based foods.
On average, men are physically stronger and more athletic than women. Also, men are better at navigational abilities, precisely locating three-dimensional objects in space and predicting their movements.
These are all traits useful for finding an animal and hurling a spear in the air to take it down.
Women, on the other hand, are better at spatial location memory.1 It means they’re good at remembering where objects are placed and in what order. Remembering where edible plants and fruits grew enabled our female ancestors to gather efficiently.
This is why women are better than men in finding things around the house.
Together with the proteins obtained from the meat and carbs obtained from edible plants, our ancestors were able to provide a sort of balanced diet to their families and communities.
Modern hunters and gatherers
In modern times, very few societies live the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. But men still have the hunter traits etched into their genes and women have their gatherer traits.
In the modern world, men mostly satisfy their ‘hunter’ urges by camping and women their ‘gatherer’ urges by shopping.
Most men simply love camping. They engage in the activity regularly to keep themselves ‘sane’ and get in touch with their core hunter self. It’s the dream of many guys to live like Bear Grylls- to experience the joy of hunting, fishing, climbing, jumping and swimming in the wilderness.
Modern times hardly allow for this type of behaviour, unless one is a sportsman, a commando, an athlete or runs some kind of a TV show. So most guys turn to camping and when that also isn’t possible they turn to video games and apps like Archery and Dinosaur Hunt.
It’s no secret that men are more into video games than women. A study of 534 young adults revealed that females play video games less frequently and are less inclined to play games involving competition and three-dimensional rotation.2
Most of these games, in one way or the other, satisfy the hunting instincts of men. Men are also more into watching outdoor sports that involve some kind of throwing, hitting, running and hurling.
Similarly, not many women in modern times actually go out foraging for plant foods. Instead, they mostly satisfy their gathering urges by shopping, which is essentially ‘gathering and collecting items’. In gathering mode, women’s brains are like “collect, collect, collect”.
This is why you can find all the important items you need in the bottomless pit of a woman’s purse.
Picture a female ancestor gathering on one side and a modern woman shopping on the other. Let’s call the female ancestor Oldy and the modern woman Goldy.
Just like Oldy spends hours examining the different bushes, shrubs, leaves, twigs, and fruits, Goldy spends hours looking at each item on an online store or in a shopping mall.
Oldy collects as much as she can in her wooden basket, often without giving any thought to whether she needs it or not or how much she needs. Later, she will sort the edible stuff from the non-edible while hanging out with other women near her cave.
Goldy also collects a lot of things without being direct about what she needs. And sometimes, much to the chagrin of her partner, finds out that she bought everything except the thing she needed most.
- McBurney, D. H., Gaulin, S. J., Devineni, T., & Adams, C. (1997). Superior spatial memory of women: Stronger evidence for the gathering hypothesis. Evolution and Human Behavior, 18(3), 165-174.
- Lucas, K., & Sherry, J. L. (2004). Sex differences in video game play: A communication-based explanation. Communication research, 31(5), 499-523.