Spatial adaptations for plant foraging: women excel and calories count.

Department of Psychology, Yale University, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT 06520-8205, USA.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.29). 12/2007; 274(1626):2679-84. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.0826
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We present evidence for an evolved sexually dimorphic adaptation that activates spatial memory and navigation skills in response to fruits, vegetables and other traditionally gatherable sessile food resources. In spite of extensive evidence for a male advantage on a wide variety of navigational tasks, we demonstrate that a simple but ecologically important shift in content can reverse this sex difference. This effect is predicted by and consistent with the theory that a sexual division in ancestral foraging labour selected for gathering-specific spatial mechanisms, some of which are sexually differentiated. The hypothesis that gathering-specific spatial adaptations exist in the human mind is further supported by our finding that spatial memory is preferentially engaged for resources with higher nutritional quality (e.g. caloric density). This result strongly suggests that the underlying mechanisms evolved in part as adaptations for efficient foraging. Together, these results demonstrate that human spatial cognition is content sensitive, domain specific and designed by natural selection to mesh with important regularities of the ancestral world.

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    ABSTRACT: This study documents that men and women experience and perform consumer shopping differently, and in ways consistent with adaptations to the sexually dimorphic foraging strategies utilized during recent human evolution. There is an abundant literature on sex differences in spatial abilities and object location that follow from the specific navigational strategies associated with hunting and gathering in the ancestral environment. In addition to sex differences in navigational strategies, the unique features of hunting and gathering may have influenced other aspects of foraging psychology that underlie sex differences in modern male and female shopping experiences and behaviors. Scales were developed to assess several aspects of shopping psychology that may be based on sexually differentiated ancestral adaptations. Results generally confirmed the predicted directions of sex differences. 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. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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    ABSTRACT: Famed microbiologist René J. Dubos (1901¿1982) was an early pioneer in the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) construct. In the 1960s, he conducted groundbreaking experimental research concerning the ways in which early-life experience with nutrition, microbiota, stress, and other environmental variables could influence later-life health outcomes. He also wrote extensively on potential health consequences of a progressive loss of contact with natural environments (now referred to as green or blue space), arguing that Paleolithic experiences have created needs, particularly in the mental realm, that might not be met in the context of rapid global urbanization. He posited that humans would certainly adapt to modern urban landscapes and high technology, but there might be a toll to be paid in the form of higher psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression) and diminished quality of life. In particular, there might be an erosion of humanness, exemplified by declines in altruism/empathy. Here in the first of a two-part review, we examine contemporary research related to natural environments and question to what extent Dubos might have been correct in some of his 50-year-old assertions.
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May 22, 2014