Our ancestors didn't shop for holiday gifts, but the way we buy may owe credit to thousands of years of evolution.
In a new study, researchers propose that our mall-visiting behaviors harken back to the days when men hunted and women foraged.
Modern men, for example, generally want to get into a store and get right back out -- just like their hunting forefathers wanted to find and bring meat home as quickly as possible. On the other hand, women get back to their foraging roots by sorting through racks of sweaters on sale -- as if scanning plants for signs of ripeness.
Plenty of people defy these general trends, of course, but the findings might help men and women better understand each other and limit arguments that surround shopping, said lead author Daniel Kruger, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, Mich.
His new theory could also help marketers design better stores that cater to gender differences.
"Women would want to have more things to search through and to be able to experience them, touch them, feel textures and see colors," Kruger said. "With a guy, he knows the properties he wants. It may be more efficient to have a counter that the guy walks up to, says what he wants, and they go get that item from a storage room."