Why do women shop?

Yet another study on why women shop, from an evolutionary perspective:

In an unconscious attempt to outdo female rivals, ovulating women buy sexier clothing, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“Not unlike the chimps featured on the Discovery Channel, women become more competitive with other females during the handful of days each month when they are ovulating. The desire for women at peak fertility to unconsciously choose products that enhance appearance is driven by a desire to outdo attractive rival women,” write authors Kristina M. Durante, Vladas Griskevicius (both University of Minnesota), Sarah E. Hill (Texas Christian University), Carin Perilloux (University of Texas at Austin) and Norman Li (Singapore Management University).

OK, whateve. But I wonder if it matters that chimps do not ovulate monthly like human females usually do? Or is it OK to make direct evolutionary comparisons between humans and made up shit about some animal?

Not that I would be terribly surprised if ovulating women bought different clothing than non-ovulating women. But still… can we please be a little less pop in our psych?


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23 thoughts on “Why do women shop?

  1. From an evolutionary stand point, why do women need to compete with other women for male attention? Does the male part of our species have a long history of only choosing the one most attractive female to have sex with or does it have a tendency (evolutionarily speaking, of course) to do it with anyone who is at least moderately attractive?

  2. It is said that guys will fuck mud.

    But that is not he point. In a ‘promiscuous’ species (using that term as a technical term meaning simply that there is a high variance in each sex’s RS and over medium to long term little predictability in who will have sex with whom for both sexes) higher ranked females can, and thus will be selected to, pick the best males (by some reasonable Darwinian standard) to have reproductive sex with.

    From there some researchers (Pagel and Gardner, eg) have shown that the amount of promiscuity is probably not that important, and female competition should exist no matter what if there is any variance in males and any possible way to compete.

    None of this is problematic. What is somewhat problematic is the concept of “sexy clothing.” It should be clothing sending some honest signal of comparative status. There is no other available evolutionary currency. The sexy clothing thing is where the marketing people and the pop psychology people merge into intellectual mush.

  3. What is the deal with the female fixation on shoes? What makes a woman go out and spend $5K on shoes, all at once, on credit? Why does so much porn show a woman naked, in bed, except for shoes? Did I miss some Freudian explanation for this? This male counts 12 pairs of shoes, including flipflops, workboots, and spares. For women, 30 pairs is nothing! What gives?

  4. I don’t see what competition has to do with it: women who are ovulating instinctively tend to signal that they are ovulating. And? Where’s the data that supports the “competition” idea? Do they tend to buy more shoes when they see another attractive woman buy shoes? Or something?

  5. Damn. I have four pairs of shoes. One is falling apart, but still rather comfy, another is for when I need to not look a total slob, one is workboots with steel toes and one is my wellies. And I keep thinking that I have too much footwear. I think my mom has about six pair, one of which is house shoes.

    Sorry a nony mouse, but if lots of shoes are a feminine thing, you’re pretty darned feminine. If it makes you feel better, I sometimes wear skirts and can be very nurturing, compassionate and talk about my feelings a lot.

    As for this stupid fucking study, I should very much like to see the pop removed from my evo-psych. It’s bloody embarrassing.

  6. Don’t women choose the clothes they wear to impress other women, rather than to impress men? Isn’t shopping a social bonding thing?

    Although I’m one of those odd women who hates shopping, so I’m the worst to ask.

  7. 2 pairs trail running shoes
    2 pairs hiking boots (insulated and non-insulated)
    1 pair sandals
    1 pair flip-flops
    2 pairs black shoes
    1 pair purely aesthetic boots

    9 pairs of shoes. No heels.

  8. Sorcha, almost certainly, yes. If anything is going on at all, it is not women trying harder to attract a hard to attract man, it is women competing to posess the honest signal of rank or quality.

    Honest signal. If honest signal is not, honestly, used in almost every paragraph it isn’t real evolutionary biology when it comes to this sort of thing.

    Duwayne, you and I have almost exactly the same shoes,except at the moment, my wellies are waders.

  9. Kate: Great. Now we can move on to something interesting. Why do women barf???? Probably that study would not be done by a marketing company.

    By the way, there are important implications. Say you are target. You would want to position the sexy clothing in relation to objects related to the menstrual cycle. Or, say, pregnancy test kits. I’m not sure how this would all work, but for enough consulting money I’ll think of something.

  10. Another apparently shoeless woman checking in here:
    1 pair runners
    1 pair NB black walkers
    1 pair winter boots
    1 pair hiking boots
    1 pair sporty sandals
    1 pair presentable sandals

    6 pairs, no heels. Even when you factor in my plan to buy myself a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, it’s still considerably fewer that A nony nony. I think sexist-assumption-man is sexist.

    Re: shopping. I didn’t read the source because Evo-psych just makes me want to throw things, but did the study cite any evidence that women actually do shop more than men? What about women who don’t like shopping, did they investigate that, clearly perverse (eyeroll), phenomenon? What about women who don’t live in rich, Western countries?

  11. Shopping is a kind of role playing. You try different clothing – see yourself in different roles, you end up buying.
    Besides, women do need options. Sexy clothes for the “ovulating” days, and sweat suits for the rest of the month, etc. And a pair of matching shoes to every dress they own.

    Re:”Sexy clothing” and naked woman in bed wearing high heels (sooooo uncomfortable)- I think men invented it.

  12. If you include the warm fuzzy slippers, I have 5 pair (no heels). Shall stay barefoot (except for errands) until it drops below 60F.

  13. Oooh! I wish I had waders. There is a great little offshoot in the Columbia River gorge, the Oneonta gorge, that goes back to a really pretty waterfall. The problem with getting to it, is that you have to go through water that is blocked by large rocks and a log jam. If you go in mid to late fall (before winter rain swells waterways) the water level is low enough to get back there, if you wear waders. If you don’t, you can get back to it, but good luck keeping any camera equipment dry.

    I have hiked above that waterfall several times, as it is one of my favorite hikes. People (including myself) try to get a look at that fall from above all the time, but it is hard to see, as you need to get close to the edge of a rather nasty, roughly 100′ drop. On one occasion, I fortuitously came along when a guy had managed to get himself stuck on wet grass (it was raining) and had been desperately holding onto a rather too small tree branch for more than an hour. I made a nasty mess of my jacket, using it as a rope to pull him up.

    Hmmm…I miss Oregon.

    Tatiana –

    Besides, women do need options.

    And what about men? I think it is patently unfair that women get all the best accessories. Not that I want shoes to match all my skirts – colors are for clashing after all. But still…

    Re:”Sexy clothing” and naked woman in bed wearing high heels (sooooo uncomfortable)- I think men invented it.

    I never understood the whole shoes and sex thing, until I learned that there are a lot of foot fetishists out there. “Sexy” clothing never really did much for me either, I think something gets lost of the moment, when you have a ten minute interlude of trying to extricate the woman or yourself from said clothes – and they aren’t really all that exciting. Simple, pretty unders are far preferable to complicated negligee.

  14. Interesting. Waders were suggested by a couple of photographers who are regulars in the gorge. There is actually plenty of dry rock when you get back far enough, there is just about 300 yards or so that is always wet. All of that is hearsay though, as the only time I have been back there is early summer while the water levels were still high. At that point there was pretty much nothing you could stand on that wasn’t submerged. The only way back at that point is swimming and that, only if you’re a rather strong swimmer and know to stick close to the walls.

    In the fall the water level only gets up to about 3.5′ or so and the areas that have a lot of drag (except for at the fall itself) are too shallow to be a problem.

    I really, really appreciate the warning though, because there are a couple of falls that I wanted to explore where that would definitely be a problem. Though I imagine that the DNR folks would also have mentioned it and I always discuss my adventures with them. But that isn’t certain and I honestly wouldn’t have thought much of it, though it makes sense now that you mention it.

  15. I came here looking for the study that discounted this stupid study. I thought someone had done that. Didn’t they?
    I love shopping for shoes and clothes but I don’t think it has anything to do with rivalry or my estrous cycles. Its actually a gradual increase in self-acceptance and acceptance of by body-shape, and now I want to dress it in stuff that’ll flatter my shape, not hide it. It’s all about me, me, me, as it should be. There are numerous reasons why people shop for clothes, doesn’t always have to do with the opposite sex.

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