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Gender Studies: Gathering and Hunting Abilities Term Paper

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Updated: Jan 16th, 2020


Human abilities are wide and varied in many aspects that can be used to define people. The difference in sex has been found to drive the disparity in human abilities by apportioning certain gifts to the male sex and others to the female gender. Although both sexes can do certain tasks equally, research indicates that people of a specific sex do specific tasks better relative to the opposite sex.

One area that scientists have come up with a hypothesis about the abilities in sex difference is the gathering hypothesis, which tries to find out, which group has the best abilities in gathering and/or which one has the best abilities in hunting. This paper will provide evidence to prove that members of the male gender are better hunters relative to women who on the other hand are also better gatherers. The paper therefore explores the spatial abilities of the two sexes.

Men as better Hunters

The theory that men are better hunters can be traced to the ancient world of both primitives and civilization by looking at the roles that society had apportioned to the two sexes. The primitive society did not have an opportunity and ability to make any studies that would then allocate duties to men and women. However, nature did it for them. This case can be attributed to the need to survive and self-preservation.

Scientists have fronted different reasons to support the different theories they have come up with concerning this issue. The division of labor in males and females underpin the development of abilities in both sexes by allocating capacities. Neave et al. (2005) reveal how males naturally adopt Euclidean strategies when trying to find ways meaning that they have good geographical knowledge (p. 147).

Good geographical knowledge is essential in hunting because it is used for locating prey whenever it is. Without geographical knowledge, it might be difficult for males to do hunting because it involves figuring out direction and movement, as well as figuring out the shortest and worth following distance. Direction enables males in their hunting because it helps them use the shortest distance to get to the possible location of their prey.

Neave et al. also argue that males have an advantage in navigational and way-finding abilities (p. 147). Although women can also make hunters, their hunting skills and abilities fade before those of males when the two groups are put to competition. One of the advantages that males have over females, which give them better hunting skills, is in the throwing/interception abilities (Neave et al. 2005, p. 147).

Hunting requires the ability to aim accurately at a target for one to hit it. It also requires one to strike it with the first instance so that it does not escape. This aspect is the biggest difference between males and females because a bigger sample of men can hit the target better relative to a bigger sample of women (Cashdan et al., 2012, p. 278).

For instance, the hunting skills of men can be attributed to their being dominant in the arm simply because they have a better chance of hitting the target than women do because of their better accuracy and interception skills. Stoet (2011, p. 420) confirms that men have many skills that are in line with hunting techniques thus automatically making them hunters.

They have the ability to focus and direct their minds on an object they are working on. With this, they are able to achieve accuracy. Stoet (2011) concludes that throwing skills, focused attention, and general spatial abilities of men make them better hunters (p. 420). Males employ different strategies to women in accomplishing their tasks are usually found to be more innovative in doing their tasks relative to women.

Therefore, in the natural setting, which is governed by the theory of survival for the fittest, males tend to become more aggressive in their mindsets whenever they are working on an issue. The natural setting gives males a better chance of survival in relation to females.

Thus, males tend to work hard to secure their offspring and generation hence tending to be more antagonistic in getting food for their own to secure their survival. This case can be attributed to the instinctive nature that males acquire whenever they are doing their hunting.

Females as Better Gatherers

Under the natural setting, females take the responsibility of giving birth and taking care of the young ones, which therefore relegate them to laser roles that would not take away all their attention. The need to take care of young ones makes females concentrate on this task. They cannot go out the way males do to hunt (Ecuyer-Dab & Robert, 2007, p. 370).

The physical abilities of females also limit them in the tasks they can do. In this case, they become good at foraging and gathering because this task is less intensive compared to hunting. Ecuyer-Dab and Robert (2007) argue that sexual division of labor is credited with the present-day division of labor too, with traditional tasks for men and women being distinct.

In this case, women developed foraging skills over a period. It required locating food within a complex array of vegetation. This finding calls for spatial configuration of objects because, in the wild where there are so many different types of vegetation and also where most vegetation is similar, configuration of objects comes in handy as a tool for differentiating the different plants to make out which ones are edible and/or which ones are not edible.

Women tend to have a memory for fixed location. They will thus be able to point out the exact location of an object, especially if the object is important to them (Ecuyer-Dab & Robert, 2007, p.366). Food in society is important. Due to the need for self-preservation that happens with all species, males and females have an instinctive drive to preserve their generations through food security.

Women tend to remember locations well especially if the places are associated with high calories (New, Danielle, & Steven, 2007, p. 2682) because women tend to think about feeding their families as a role and responsibility bestowed on them by nature. They have been found to have vividness for static things, which enable them to make good foragers and gatherers because they are able to locate these things easily as long as they are not moved.

Movement of the same complicates matters for women because they tend to lose their vividness for moving things. This case can be attributed to natural abilities that come with physiological features for females that make their movement less fast in relation to that of men. Females cannot move as fast as males. This issue can be attributed to their biological set up because females’ bodies are meant to carry babies and in the end give birth.

Therefore, their bones, especially their pelvic bones, are not completely joined together as one unit to allow their hip to expand further during childbirth. This disjoint makes their movement a bit slower than that of males because they have a sort of play that reduces their speed. Therefore, with these inhibitions, females have specialized in what they can do best, which does not allow them to make many quick movements.

Thus, foraging becomes their best option. Although females are known to hunt in some selected cases, they are not known to hunt big games. Their hunting is mostly restricted to traps as a way of catching prey. Therefore, the limitations brought about due to physiological features have made females take to foraging and gathering as the best way to find food.

Stoet (2011) observes that the link between object location memory and gathering is guided by the fact that edible objects are found at given locations. (p. 421). Immobile resources require different computational skills for them to be located. It takes a lot more memory retrieval for one to relocate locations where food resources were once found.

The tendency for the female mind to stick with foraging has developed to the extent that it becomes automatically guided to earlier locations where food was previously found. An advantage to this case is because, in most instances as stated above, edible objects can be found in the same location repeatedly. According to New, Danielle, and Steven (2007), an experiment to asses memory for location of immobile food resources found that females’ location of such food resources is more accurate than that of males (p. 2680).

Advantages that Males have for Hunting

Males have better computational requirements for mobile prey as compared to women. This has helped to advance their abilities to hunt prey. Their vividness for dynamic moving things enables them to have better shots that can bring big prey down, which is something that females lack.

Males have more power and thrust when shooting, which has enabled them become better hunters due to their ability to shoot objects such as spears over a long distance as they require great momentum to hit a prey with an impact (New, Danielle & Steven, 2007, p. 2679). On the other hand, when comparing this ability to that of women, one finds that females have less power to shoot things like spears over an extended space.

Whenever females do the shooting, it is usually over a very short distance and off target. This case can be attributed to lack of steadiness due to their physiological features. Only in exceptional cases are females found to have as good hunting skills as those of men. Nevertheless, it is a feature that cannot be replicated to a larger group of females. Navigational skills in men are found not only in finding direction, but also in directing the tools of work (Cashdan et al., 2012, p. 278).

This finding is found in the way men can throw a weapon for hunting with accuracy to hit the target. Men apply men’s spatial abilities of navigation for hunting prey. In so doing, they become better hunters. The same spatial skills in throwing are combined in such a way that males are able to hit moving targets better relative to women. In hunting, not all the time the prey is mobile.

Thus, males’ ability to intercept is made better by their ability to calculate the speed of a moving target and throwing a weapon at such a speed that will meet the moving target at some point (Stoet, 2011, p. 420). Males’ physiological features also enable them to make better hunters due to the formation of their body muscles as well the pelvic bone structure. It gives them better movement as compared to females.

When it comes to navigation, males prefer using vectors to landmarks (Piccardi et al., 2008, p. 128). In the use of vectors to navigate, males apply orientation in their movement, which offers them a good hunting strategy because they are able to determine the movement of prey without following it directly. Therefore, they can find shortcuts that would enable them intercept the prey using the shortest distance possible.

According to New, Danielle, and Steven (2007), males can make a better direction decision, which at the end of the day gives them a better ability to direct. This element is important in hunting because, other than navigation, they are able to throw weapons in the right direction with good precision (p. 2679). Research findings by New, Danielle, and Steven (2007) indicate that the foraging ability by women is informed mostly by nutritional contents in food (p. 2681).

Gender Roles and Spatial Abilities

According to research findings by Ecuyer- Dab and Robert (2007), when one is using incidentally locations in trying to recognize objects, women tend to surpass men in their abilities to recognize objects that have not been moved from one location to another and for those whose location has been moved. This confirms that, as part of women’s foraging abilities, memory for static locations is important because it enables them to forage and gather better (Stoet, 2011, p. 422).

The role of women in child rearing also sets them to become better foragers than men because females are always under pressure to provide for the young ones as a way of ensuring their survival. Survival for the fittest requires individuals to apply ingenuity in their need to survive and hence having to find the simplest means of getting food as the basic object for survival.

Therefore, females will tend to try many different things that would ensure their offspring survives and/or will not force themselves into activities that are tedious when trying to find food because this matter would be too much a burden when they add it to child caring (Stoet, 2011, p. 422). On the other hand, men spend a lot of time away from their families especially from children thus are not burdened by the need to do things at the pace of their young ones (Stoet 2011, p. 422).

In this instance, males are able to take care of their activities without disturbance and with a lot of concentration. Hunting as a skill and practice requires the hunter to move in a stealth manner to be as close as possible to the prey as a way of getting a better shot at the target. This step cannot happen when in a company of young ones because they would not understand the activity taking place thus scaring away the prey.

Brown (2013) finds that a female’s mind has a higher tendency to capture objects in to its attention thus making it easy for them to locate with precision where certain objects of interest to them are found (p. 726). On the other hand, males’ mind has very little space for capturing objects and their locations and storing them in mind. This ability can be informed by the tendency of males to have more interest at moving objects than on stationary ones.

Hunting entails chasing after animals that do not take a single direction and hence not predictable in their flight. This case negates the need to memorize exact locations for prey because, at the end of the day, the prey will not be found on the same exact location.

Influences of Age on Spatial Abilities

When it comes to object location memory, one fundamental aspect that cannot be ignored, which is very important, is the age and sex. Females start training at a very early age on object location. The higher the age, the more experienced they become (Cashdan et al., 2012, p. 279).

Females gain more experience over a period in memorizing object location hence making them better gatherers because time will always allow them to get to know many more locations that have food objects to allow them to differentiate them better. Age for males is an advantage especially when they advance in age (Cashdan et al., 2012, p. 280).

As age is an advantage to females in foraging, it is also an advantage to males because it enables them to develop better skills for hunting. The hunting technique is something that develops with time. Through practice, a male can become a better hunter.

Although age in males might become a disadvantage again because, the more advanced the age, the more the drop in energy in the male bodies, males depend on energy as one of the most important elements for their hunting skills because, for them to throw a weapon with potent force, they must be energetic enough.

Males also require speed for them to make better hunters. This speed only grows with age and consequently subsides with age (McBurney et al., 1997). Therefore, with good skills but without energy, males’ hunting capabilities wane significantly. Therefore, age is a very big determinant in the abilities of both sexes to either hunt or gather


Different research has been done to prove the spatial abilities of the male and female sex. Different researchers have come out with different conclusions. What cannot be disputed is that, naturally, the spatial difference between men and females is more of a natural thing than of an acquired one because different people believe in different theories, which at the end of the day tend to draw the same conclusion.

The convergence of the same conclusion therefore negates the same theories that try to explain the same phenomenon. A simple fact remains that men and women have different spatial abilities. On the other hand, one theory that comes closest to explain the difference without raising much dispute is the biological theory that tries to explain the working of the brain and how it informs the female and male minds to takes up certain practices. This difference can be attributed to hormonal distribution as a basic way of explaining the male and female variations.

Reference List

Brown, J. (2013). A sex difference in location-based inhibition-of-return. Personality & Individual Differences, 54(6), 721-725.

Cashdan, E., Marlowe, W., Crittenden, A., Porter, C., & Wood, M. (2012). Sex differences in spatial cognition among Hadza foragers. Evolution And Human Behavior, 33(4), 274-284.

Ecuyer-Dab, I., & Robert, M. (2007). The Female Advantage in Object Location Memory According to the Foraging Hypothesis: A Critical Analysis. Human Nature, 18(4), 365-385.

McBurney, H., Gaulin, C., Devineni, T., & Adams, C. (1997). Superior spatial memory of women: Stronger evidence for the gathering hypothesis. Evolution And Human Behavior, 18(3), 165-174.

Neave, N., Hamilton, C., Hutton, L., Tildesley, N., & Pickering, T. (2005). Some Evidence of a Female Advantage in Object Location Memory Using Ecologically Valid Stimuli. Human Nature, 16(2), 146-163.

New, J., Krasnow, M., Truxaw, D., & Gaulin, S. (2007). Spatial adaptations for plant foraging: women excel and calories count. Proceedings Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274(1626), 2679-2684.

Piccardi, L., Iaria, G., Bianchini, F., Zompanti, L., & Guariglia, C. (2008). Walking in the Corsi test: Which type of memory do you need?. Neuroscience Letters, 432(2), 127-131.

Stoet, G. (2011). Sex differences in search and gathering skills. Evolution And Human Behavior, 32(6), 416-422.

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