Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Girls make better Gatherers

Though men may be better at reading maps and finding randomly hidden objects, a new study suggests that women are better at remembering routes to known objects - i.e. men are better at hunting and women are better at gathering.

The study has a neat design: they saddled pairs of indigenous Mexican men and women with GPS and activity monitors and then sent them out to collect mushrooms. Women were much more efficient foragers - they collected the same amount of mushrooms as the men but used a whole lot less energy (because they presumably knew where they were going). Women also found a greater variety of mushrooms from more sites (collecting from small patches of mushrooms). Meanwhile, the men ran all up and down the mountain, wasting a ton of energy looking for motherlodes.*

I'm always a little skeptical of these evo-psych Just So Stories, but it's interesting all the same (and it matches my personal experience!).

h/t: MycoRant

*Hopefully they controlled for confounders - e.g. how much time men and women usually spend mushroom hunting in this society. I don't have access to the article...


  1. Please tell me you can hear me groaning. Back in the "caveman days", it's just as likely that both men and women participated in hunting and gathering although it's likely that men hunted more than women on average and women gathered more than men. All and all, the differences between men and women are blown out of proportion in comparison to their similarities. The differences between men are much greater than the differences between men and women.

  2. Hahaha, yeah an awful lot of these old stories seem to be based on armchair conjecture.

    I've read that it's common in MODERN hunter-gatherer societies for the men to hunt and the women to gather, but I can't imagine anyone knows with much precision what we all did in the past. Besides, human cultures moved around and changed their diets so much that it's hard to believe we were in one place long enough to really accumulate caste-like gender specificity (especially, as you point out, beyond variation within each gender).


  3. Goddamit woman, where did I leave my spear and my bow and arrows?



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