Purchases require the processing of information in order to make a selection. Women possess certain innate skills. While men are the hunters, women are the gatherers, says Mary Symmes, a licensed social worker who specializes in women's issues. "Discrimination is built in, the ability to scan, analyze and make choices. Women tend to spend money to improve their environment, to add some quality to their life. It is part of self-care, direct self-care."
American psychologist Abraham Maslow has listed human motivation in the order of importance as physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization needs. Symmes confirms that shopping fills some of those self-actualization needs.
"Women experience pleasure and power in being able to go out and get what they need," Symmes says. For instance, stocking the larder with groceries results in satisfaction about you as a provider. Clothes shopping can meet basic needs as well as carry a secondary value, such as creativity.
"Women can be said to go into an altered state where they are inspired by colors and combinations," Symmes says. "We can be imaginative."
Beyond the basic needs shopping fulfills are a host of others that can be even more rewarding and self-affirming. The purchase of a book may carry with it a validation of your intellect. The acquisition of a painting can demonstrate your interest in the arts and, in addition, provide a demonstration of your unique taste. Buying a new camera may result in self-actualization, the affirmation of your inner world: "I am a creative person."
Shopping as Communal Activity
Shopping is also an activity that allows women to connect with one another. Underhill's studies show that when two women shop together, they invest more of their time in the actual process of shopping. It becomes a communal affair.
Here are his statistics from a study performed at a national housewares chain:
- Time spent by a woman shopping with a female companion: 8 minutes, 15 seconds
- By a woman shopping with children: 7 minutes, 19 seconds
- By a woman shopping alone: 5 minutes, 2 seconds
- By a woman shopping with a man: 4 minutes, 41 seconds.