You know, I was perfectly happy to believe that anecdotes and rumours around the differential shopping habits of different human sexes had about as much foundation in fact as…as…(he casts around frantically for a non-offensive analogy)…oh, the myth that walking under ladders brings bad luck. Even if I perpetuated said myth in my much-vilified recent Nature offering – because it helped the story, and fit with my own admittedly non-rigorous observations.
I was also recently told in no uncertain terms and at some length, by a number of very grim folk, that this was indeed a myth, and a sexist one to boot.
Being a scientist, however, I have been trained to demand evidence, to either support or disprove a hypothesis.
And it appears that it exists…now, while the credibility of the journal has been doubted in a blog to which I really don’t feel like linking, it remains a fact that the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology exists, that it appears to be a peer-reviewed academic journal, that it garners citations from other journals – and that it published an article entitled “Evolved foraging psychology underlies sex differences in shopping experiences and behaviors“, by Daniel Kruger of the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, and Dreyson Byker, of Literature, Science, and the Arts, University of Michigan. In Volume 3, Issue 4, of December 2009 – a special issue reporting “Proceedings of the Third Annual Meeting of the NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society”.
So: a reasonably respectable gathering, then, of respected academics, reporting academic work? One has to assume so – and that this paper is in good standing, otherwise it would never have been published? Again, a reasonable assumption – so to quote from said article could possibly come under the heading of scientific reportage, rather than sexist assumptions based only on gender bias? If the chain of logic holds, then what I will write now cannot be held as evidence of my innate gender bias – can it?
From the abstract:
“Compared to men, women relied more on object oriented navigation strategies and scored higher on skills and behaviors associated with gathering, the degree to which shopping is seen as recreational, the degree to which shopping is a social activity, and the tendency to see new locations as opportunities for shopping. Men scored higher on skills and behaviors thought to be associated with hunting. Most effect sizes were moderate or strong. These results suggest that shopping experiences and behaviors are influenced by sexually divergent adaptations for gathering and hunting.” [my emphasis]
The paper is in fact quite detailed for a conference presentation – it runs to 15 pages – and reports experiments done using students:
“Undergraduate students (N = 467, 298 females and 169 males) at two large Mid- Western American public universities and who were enrolled in introductory psychology classes participated in an institutionally approved on-line survey at their convenience.”
Right: so it went through an Ethics Committee, then? Evidently – it being a large, respectable US university, and all.
And they found that…
“…there is evidence that women’s role as gatherers continues to exist even though the environment and the objects being gathered have changed with respect to our ancestral environment. Also as predicted, men scored higher on skills and behaviors associated with hunting. Thus, even though the prey is now an expensive home theatre system, men are still applying the skills that were developed to obtain meat in a hunter-gatherer environment.” [my emphases][and pretty much what I said][only more learned]
Oh, one could claim that this is an isolated study – they are mavericks – their results are not supported by peer research…except that they’re not alone.
I give you “‘Men Buy, Women Shop': The Sexes Have Different Priorities When Walking Down the Aisles” – from “researchers at Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm”.
From the article:
“Women tend to be more invested in the shopping experience on many dimensions,” says Robert Price, chief marketing officer at CVS Caremark and a member of the Baker advisory board. “Men want to go to Sears, buy a specific tool and get out.”
“Gender… is one of the easier customer attributes to address in a strategic fashion. Truly sophisticated marketers could get into attempting to differentiate services by gender and age or between professional women and those who manage households full-time. “
So you see, it’s not just me, being sexist. Is it? One peer-reviewed article, which has not been refuted in the peer-reviewed literature as far as I can see, and a study that was undoubtedly commissioned for large $$, out in the open, say the same as I did, in a story.
Bear in mind, I HAVE NOT STATED, ANYWHERE, THAT THE ABOVE IS MY FIRM BELIEF – except in a story, in order to set the scene for what followed.
Which makes this trackback, which I consigned to stray-electron-space but doubtless exists out there in the blogosphere somewhere, just another symptom of the “he’s a sexist bastard and I’ll defend that to his death” school of scientific commentary:
“…now Ed Rybicki does believe the shit he wrote. In his most recent blog post he cites REAL SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of womanspace…”
This is in marked contrast to the comments which I HAVE allowed, you will notice, which are far more in tune with civilised discourse.
But – to quote the godawful TV adverts spawned on us by US marketting channels – there’s more! I read somewhere out there in Hatespace that one commenter would like to see figures on what online shopping demographics look like – presumably, because while gender (or sex) might affect physical shopping, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.
As in – the actual animal. Not to be construed as a derogatory comment on any kind of person. From a joke. A very mild one.
SO here we have – an actual study, on online shopping habits! Quoting from this online article, which dealt with the Kruger / Byker paper discussed above:
“The hunter vs forager line comes up again in another interesting finding: men outspend women when it comes to online purchases. Like hunters, more men shop online and they love the quick efficient nature of the Internet which allows them to go in for the kill.”
The study was commissioned by PayPal, meaning again, big $$$ are involved. One apposite quote from the UK Guardian article:
“…the report also revealed that women are slightly more adept than men at shopping around for cheaper products. More women than men used comparison sites when buying financial services, and more women researched an item “offline” before going online to make a purchase.”
I note that the last two reports are serious pieces of work, researched in order that serious companies can figure out where to put serious money in terms of marketting and sales strategies – and then reported in very sober publications, as being fact.
So where does that leave my story, in terms of being a hateful piece of sexism too vile to be published anywhere, but especially in Nature? I have explained elsewhere how certain assumptions and presumptions about how and why it was that I could put a woman in the kitchen, make the men idle, and then have men being too hapless to find knickers, are just that – presumptions, and completely uninformed ones at that. The next basis for vituperative criticism was that I blithely assumed for the sake of the story that there are differences between the human sexes in terms of shopping behaviour – which would seem to have at least some basis in fact, for both physical and online shopping.
Now I am not going to argue about whether these are in fact innate or learned differences, or whether they are reflected in gender bias, or anything else – the fact is that studies that observe human behaviour have thrown up differences in shopping behaviour linked to sex. Or is it gender?
Which removes another of the planks used to beat me with, as far as I am concerned.
Right, so what’s left? Oh, that trifling matter of women having supernatural or superhuman powers that allow them to universe-hop in search of good stuff.
Folks – it’s just a story. And if I want to believe the women in my life are superhuman, I will. Thank you.
(See, Hatespace, you should have waited till I finished before leaping to conclusions)