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Thousands of years ago, we were all hunters of wild animals and gatherers of wild foods. Responsibilities were allocated by gender. Hunting was a male task, as men were bigger and stronger. Women’s responsibilities included child-rearing, cooking, and gathering readily-available edibles such as fruits, nuts, and berries. Hunters first needed to find the game, which required not only roaming far from the camp, but also learning how to track and read signs. Over time, they developed the specialized skills of locating their prey, and of equal importance, finding their way back home. Gatherers needed to know how to tell edibles from poisons and how to select fruits, nuts, and berries that were ripe and thereby more flavorful and more easily digestible. Psychologists say our tens of thousands of years of practicing these skills still manifest themselves today in the ways we shop.

Men are on a mission; women are on a journey of discovery.

Men go in and out of stores more quickly. They go directly to what they want and quit when they have captured it. Women shop in a more leisurely fashion. They take a more selective approach, using their greater sensitivity to assess subtle differences. Studies show that on average, men get bored after half an hour of shopping, while women don’t get bored for two hours. Little wonder how when they shop together, women feel hurried and men feel it takes forever.

Hunting required the development of situational awareness and navigational skills, too.

Studies have shown that men tend to navigate by creating mental maps of a territory and then imagining their position on the maps. Women are more likely to remember their routes using landmarks.

So when someone says men’s greater ability to navigate is hooey, tell them male and female navigational skills were honed differently by evolution for different tasks.

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