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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shopping Is a Throwback to the Days of Cavewomen

David Holmes is a Fellow in the Division of Psychology and Social Change at Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester (UK). His latest "research" results were reported in the Telegraph: Shopping is 'throwback to days of cavewomen'.
Shoppers are using instincts they learnt from their Neanderthal ancestors, researchers have found.1

Dr David Holmes, of Manchester Metropolitan University, said skills that were learnt as cavemen and women were now being used in shops.

He said: "Gatherers sifted the useful from things that offered them no sustenance, warmth or comfort with a skill that would eventually lead to comfortable shopping malls and credit cards.

"In our evolutionary past, we gathered in caves with fires at the entrance.

"We repeat this in warm shopping centres where we can flit from store to store without braving the icy winds."

The study was commissioned by Manchester Arndale shopping centre in response to a rise in January visitors, according to the Daily Express.
Now, assuming that women did all the gathering (they probably didn't), and assuming everyone lived in caves (they didn't), it still seems improbable that you could gather much food by strolling around the inside of a cave.

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon hits the nail on the head [The next evolutionary step for evo psych].
I’m curious to know what kind of study they commissioned with what kind of data collection, because right now it appears that they just paid someone with a PhD to make shit up. Of course, evo psych has been on about that for forever, so it was just a matter of time before marketers saw the potential---if you can make something up and call it science because of the sexist content and the thin veneer of authority granted by doctorate degrees, why not go whole hog?
Making shit up is NOT science. It's closer to stand-up comedy.

Here's an example of comedy/satire by MissPrism.
When cave-ladies ground up roots and seeds to make pies for their cave-husbands, a white colour indicated the food was free of toxic contaminants. Cave-ladies accordingly evolved to value white above all other colours, which is why women today all long for a white wedding dress!

However, cave-ladies also needed to be able to tell when their cave-pie was cooked to a delicious golden brown. Women's visual systems therefore make a far more acute distinction between white and brown than those of men, who in our evolutionary past only saw the pies in their cooked state. For this reason, men can't see dirt and should never do laundry.
In spite of the fact that I like the conclusion, this isn't science. MissPrism's story is just as credible as the stories made up by evolutionary psychologists and that's a damning conclusion. It suggests that the entire field of evolutionary psychology is practically worthless as a science—maybe when we kick all the the evolutionary psychologists out of the universities, they can make a living by writing comedy.

1. All available scientific evidence indicates that Neanderthals were not our ancestors.

[Hat Tip: Hopeful Monster at Chance and Necessity: Malls, caves, and evolutionary psychology]


  1. "All available scientific evidence indicates that Neanderthals were not our ancestors."

    That's a very sexy cavewoman in the picture to the right. If Neanderthals were our ancestors, would all mature women look like Raquel Welch?

    PS: In which mall did Welch find that outfit? I want one just like it.

  2. Boy, can scientists ever be silly (I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about you). You still don’t get it, do you? They don’t call natural selection the “universal acid” for nothing. You keep making fun of the evolutionary psychology stories because it apparently hasn’t dawned on you that there is now nowhere else to get these explanations. But just you wait, eventually the evolutionary psychologists will come up with stories that even you will like. You’ll see. You don’t really have an alternative.
    It’s just like the scientist Bozos that say “Stop! You Can’t derive an ought from an is, what about the naturalistic fallacy?”. Silly scientists again, there is no place above the clouds where the ought resides. Natural selection destroyed those notions too. All that there is is what there is, and that’s the only place left for you to ever get an ought. So just quit belly-aching and do it.

  3. Wow, you couldn't make this stuff up!

    No, . . . wait . . .