Inheritance & Variation of Traits, Inheritance 1: Behavior and Reproduction (MS), Inheritance 4: Population Genetics (HS), Life Science

Hunters and Gatherers

Sex differences in search and gathering skills (NOT OPEN ACCESS)

SUMMARY: Three experiments were conducted to test the theory that women are better at men when it came to finding things. This theory is based on the archeological evidence that shows women were gatherers and men were hunters. The experiments showed the opposite: men were faster and found more things on a computer simulation than women. More questions come out of this article than conclusions. Are these computer simulations an accurate way to show gathering skills since it is so different from how people used to gather food? Do these experiments ignore the fact that food cannot be found in the same place over and over again?

LESSON COMMENTS: Methodology is easy to follow and the experiment can be reproduced for a middle or high school class.

This is a good way to teach students about the difference between correlation and causation. Just because women were slower than men at gathering and finding objects doesn’t necessarily mean it is due to differences in gender. Some questions to ask students:

  • What are some other factors that could affect search time?
  • Does a faster search equate to a better search?
  • Is search time important for gathering food?
  • Why was time used as a way to measure ability?

G. Stoet, “Sex differences in search and gathering skills,” Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 416–422, 2011.