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30-12-2014
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Is shopping a subversion of our foraging instinct?
I was reading an interview of Barbara Kingsolver in The Sun last night (partial article here: http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/459/the_moral_universe), in which she states her theory that shopping is modern women's subversion of our ancient foraging behavior (and sports is modern men's subversion of the hunting behavior). And that as a result of now easily-available food, which was almost never the case historically, we now spend a lot of our time on things that aren't really important, sometimes with unfortunate results, like 300 pairs of shoes. I don't have the exact quote in front of me, as it's not part of what's available online. (I can post it later, if anyone's interested.)

I found this quite interesting, but I'm not sure I agree. When I go antiquing, what I'm going to find is fairly unpredictable, and that I think is like foraging (and I do find it oddly comforting, and feel the need to do it periodically).

But when I shop for the kinds of things we talk about here, I think it's more like hunting ... stalking, and then moving in for the kill Probably not how a lot of people shop, but it's how I do it. I sometimes refer to it as a 'targeted strike' or 'military operation.'

What do you think? Is Kingsolver's theory correct? When you shop, do you forage? Hunt? Both?

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Last edited by fashionista-ta; 30-12-2014 at 03:25 PM.
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31-12-2014
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oh, what a cute topic. how fashion / shopping dovetails with evolution.

i think it's both hunting and foraging. if i want something specific - like the perfect black boots - it's a hunt. it takes patience, planning. but if i am browsing and/or thrifting, then it's definitely foraging, because it's more about wandering, seeing what i can find. less specific and strategic than hunting.

and by the way, happy 2015!!

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31-12-2014
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Happy New Year to you too! It sounds like your approach is similar to mine.


But I read fairly frequently--from Nigella Lawson for example--that people have a whole closet of clothes that isn't them, that they don't wear, etc. I have always thought this was a side effect of 'retail therapy' ... but this idea kind of begs the question, what is retail therapy? Is it really the instinct to forage that has people's closets (and credit) in such a mess?

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01-01-2015
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It makes sense, but then I think of how impulsive one can be when shopping and the thrill it can bring, and it seems more like a reward/addiction type thing. I would describe retail therapy as something similar to self-medicating. Some people snort cocaine, some eat their feelings, some sleep around, others well they just max out their credit cards on Louboutins.
And how long has this retail woman thing been going on? Because humans stopped doing the hunting and gathering thing long ago , so how would we deduce that it is influenced by the instinct to forage instead of societal influence?

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01-01-2015
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Some humans are still hunting and gathering. I have coworkers who hunt every weekend during the season.


Even with grocery stores, where there have been shortages (Soviet era), gathering food was a major focus of time. Gathering water is a major focus of time for millions if not billions of humans today.


There are also first world cultures less focused on the supermarket, where food is carefully gathered, almost daily, from specialists.


Shopping certainly can be an addiction, but having too much stuff applies to the majority in the first world, and I don't think everyone's addicted to shopping.


Our inherited instincts and behaviors are pretty powerful. Advertising and culture play their roles ... but what allows them to be so effective in manipulating behavior? Perhaps they are playing on a very basic instinct (or more than one).

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01-01-2015
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Here's the original quote from Barbara Kingsolver ...


Quote:
Some aspects of our animal nature are actually very gratifying. For example, foraging. For most of our existence we probably spent a large portion of our waking hours looking for food. Since we've developed this artificially constructed world where we have no opportunity to see edible things growing, we've subverted that fundamental drive into shopping. Women did more of the foraging, and men did more of the hunting, so women have subverted the foraging drive into shopping, and men have subverted the hunting drive into sports. Of course, there's plenty of crossover. I'm sure there always was. But we've taken these natural tendencies and applied them to pointless exercises. In the distant past you would have been the best forager in the village, but today you've got three hundred pairs of shoes. Nobody needs three hundred pairs of shoes.

If you can reconnect these drives to something more useful both to you and to your neighbors, it can be gratifying. Maybe going to the farmer's market or having a community garden would reapply your foraging drive to what it was really meant to do.

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01-01-2015
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But then in a way you can apply this foraging instinct to a lot of our behaviors.
While this instinct probably does play some role in the urge to buy stuff, I think there's a lot more at play. Like for example, the need to show off, which can get you mates. Also, humans seem to have this thing for self expression

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04-01-2015
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thanks ...
that sounds like an interesting thread.

first i had to check foraging for definition/translation.
... and i hadn't read the article, yet. since you sum it up quite well, i guess.
but i went through it quickly and i found this. but didn't find anything related to sports or shopping, like really ...
but i guess i don't have the whole text.

here

Quote:
Supin: What changes have you made to lessen your own environmental impact? How do you practice conservation on a daily basis?
Kingsolver: My lifelong goal is to sort out the difference between “need” and “want.” My practices change over time, but the goal is consistent: to learn to live a happy, useful life on this earth without using up an unnecessary share of its goods. We all know the numbers about resource consumption here versus elsewhere: that giving birth to one U.S. child costs the same, in terms of consumption and carbon footprint, as giving birth to thirty children who will live in Bangladesh. It’s not that an American body needs more to survive. The problem is the hungry American brain. I certainly have one of those. I own plenty of things I could live without, and somehow there are always so many muddy shoes piled up on our front porch you’d think a whole village of people lived in this house.
But as a household we try to examine our “wants.” We don’t replace functional things simply because they are old. I live in an old house, work on a computer that some would call ancient, and still have a favorite sweater I purchased in high school. My daughters like to wear handmade and vintage clothes, and all of us sew, knit, cook, and make gifts rather than buying them. Poverty is not enviable. I know that, believe you me. But simplicity offers rewards. Instead of driving to a gym, I hoe a garden and haul hay into the barn, and I find that I love using my muscles, not to mention the companionship of my sheep. After a year of consciously growing most of our own food and buying everything else from local farmers, we felt as if our palates had gone to heaven, and we can’t imagine now going back to the industrial food pipeline. Another year I decided to avoid air travel, and that also unexpectedly enriched my life. To be still, to focus on home, to find more-economical ways to meet colleagues, to enjoy travels of the mind via books — these are not deprivations. That year I learned how to get to New York City by train. It’s not easy or fast, but the route winds through the New River Valley of West Virginia, and that is a glory no sensible person would regret seeing.
This isn’t about “paper or plastic” or some vision of self-congratulatory parsimony. It’s about replacing material gratifications with spiritual ones. I don’t know how much carbon I’m offsetting with my choices. I just prefer to be a good animal rather than one that fouls its nest. Also, and maybe most importantly, if I can learn to live happily with less, I feel more entitled to vote and agitate for legislation that would require everyone — even ceos — to do the same.
the sun magazine


first i am not sure foraging is womanly related. and that sport -that could be, too, for women- is replacing hunting (it does still exist... less ... but i'm sure, even in the US, some people are still hunting to eat).
and i'm not all into the animal/human behavior comparisons. some works are interesting. but not here.
sport, and hunting, and foraging, and shopping, has been ancient practices - sure in different civilisations, and times, and contexts ...
but using the eating metaphor (hunting, foraging), to what the author thinks is more modern - such as sport, shopping, etc. which is false, i suppose -, is probably the worst tactic.

sport - such as hunting mostly these days - belongs to me in the God, and ancient traditions for instance of roman stadium, the party, celebrating the body, the community, the stronger, etc. not an eating wheel process.
and shopping, even though some scenes can be seen as foraging, i do not think the shopping process, its tactics, its practices, its goal can be compared to eating, or even looking for something to eat.


certainly this author needs a therapy...
a lacanian one ... Lacan thinks the process of going to the bathroom, and your relationships to this process, says a lot about you - and it can be related to your relationships to money, and trades, sharings etc. but it mainly can be linked to compulsion (and doubts.)

damn that is messy.


but i do agree with her about our relationships to money, and the importance of shopping - hence, the behavior of consuming and finances.
you see shopping and money arent really animal comparable ...


Last edited by BerlinRocks; 04-01-2015 at 10:37 AM.
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04-01-2015
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^ Well, you covered a lot of ground there


I'm not sure shopping isn't animal related. For example, what about magpies that collect shiny objects in their nests? And right now there is a pile of bones and dog toys under my bed ... and I assure you I didn't put it there Isn't that quite similar to the mindless accumulation and hoarding some people engage in?

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05-01-2015
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fashionista-ta View Post
^ Well, you covered a lot of ground there


I'm not sure shopping isn't animal related. For example, what about magpies that collect shiny objects in their nests? And right now there is a pile of bones and dog toys under my bed ... and I assure you I didn't put it there Isn't that quite similar to the mindless accumulation and hoarding some people engage in?
I think your dog puts the stuff there as a means of storage and hiding it from the competition or for later use.
There was experimentation done with capuchin monkeys and using money, they managed to grasp the concept of money and buying and selling...and started engaging in prostitution apparently. But they seemed mostly concerned with acquiring what's useful.

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06-01-2015
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Quote:
There was experimentation done with capuchin monkeys and using money, they managed to grasp the concept of money and buying and selling...and started engaging in prostitution apparently. But they seemed mostly concerned with acquiring what's useful.
I would love to read this ...
Do you remember where you read this ?

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15-01-2015
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BerlinRocks View Post
I would love to read this ...
Do you remember where you read this ?
Here's one article, there are more that you can find through Google
http://www.zmescience.com/research/h...nkey-appeared/

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1 Week Ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squilliam View Post
It makes sense, but then I think of how impulsive one can be when shopping and the thrill it can bring, and it seems more like a reward/addiction type thing. I would describe retail therapy as something similar to self-medicating. Some people snort cocaine, some eat their feelings, some sleep around, others well they just max out their credit cards on Louboutins.
And how long has this retail woman thing been going on? Because humans stopped doing the hunting and gathering thing long ago , so how would we deduce that it is influenced by the instinct to forage instead of societal influence?
I would agree with this. I don't think you can compare it to foraging. In the hunter-gatherer period, foraging was a means of survival. Nowadays I would say shopping is a feel good hobby, an easy route for instant gratification. It all stems from materialism, new things give people a false sense of improvement. Unlike shopping habits now, foraging was to keep yourself alive, it was free to take what you found, and you would take what you could find instead of picking and choosing.

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