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Men, Women use Internet like Hunter-Gatherers

I never know quite to make of studies like this. In the current issue of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, two researchers assert that the skills required for surfing the internet — including navigation skills — are more apparent in men. They connect this ability to our ancestry as hunters. From

The [researchers are] brothers — one a doctoral student in psychology, the other in marketing — [they] created two online bookstores for their study.

They suspected that a wide site, one that kept them close to the homepage, would appeal most to women, who as gatherers traditionally stayed close to home to forage for berries and vegetables.

They also suspected that men would prefer a deep site, which would allow them to navigate through more links using the internal navigation skills they would have used as hunters.

“So if all of this has a little bit of truth to it then we would notice that the women would much prefer the wide structures, simply because there are a lot of landmarks, compared to the deep structure, which you need an internal compass to go through lots of links,” study author Philippe Stenstrom told

Not surprisingly, men reported spending less time to complete tasks when they used the deep website compared to women. They also worked faster on the deep website than they did on the wide site.

The article continues:

… the researchers did find that men and women respond differently to visual cues:

  • Women prefer clear visual guidelines such as bold colours, markers they would have looked for when foraging for berries.
  • Men prefer animation and other moving objects, skills they would have used while hunting animals.
  • The findings suggest that website designers consider gender differences when designing their sites, particularly if they are targeting one gender over another, Stenstrom said.

    I am left with something of a ‘so what’ feeling here. Isn’t familiarity with the internet more relevant to understanding how to navigate the internet? Aren’t hunting and surfing better thought of as learned skills not biological inheritances? And, who are these hunters and gatherers of the past? Where did they live? (What is the starting point?)

    And how far can you take the analogies? Good internet surfers are likely to be good hunters? Good hunters have no trouble with the internet? I get the point — similar skills are required. Fine.

    Sphere: Related Content


    1. Eugene wrote:

      Now everyone is talking about the American economy and eclections, nice to read something different. Eugene

      Monday, October 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
    2. Thanks for visiting, Eugene. –Tad

      Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 7:43 am | Permalink