The Neurocognitive and Evolutionary Bases of Sex Differences in Website Design Preferences: Recommendations for Marketing Managers

The Neurocognitive and Evolutionary Bases of Sex Differences in Website Design Preferences: Recommendations for Marketing Managers

Eric Stenstrom (Concordia University, Canada) and Gad Saad (Concordia University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-611-7.ch072
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Marketing managers habitually use sex as a form of segmentation since it satisfies several requirements for efficient implementation including profitability, identifiability, accessibility, and measurability (Darley & Smith, 1995). Nevertheless, sex differences in marketing remain under-researched and continue to be a source of confusion for managers (Hupfer, 2002). Sex differences in cognitive processing are particularly relevant to e-business managers given that online consumers must process various types of spatial and perceptual information while navigating online. Despite the large body of evidence documenting consistent sex differences in cognition (Kimura, 2004), there is a paucity of research exploring how male and female consumers respond differently to various website design aspects (Cyr & Bonanni, 2005; Moss, Gunn, & Heller, 2006; Simon, 2001). Moreover, the few studies that have examined sex differences in online preferences were not grounded in any consilient theoretical framework.
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Researchers have highlighted the importance of website design as an antecedent of e-satisfaction (Evanschitzkya, Iyer, Hessea, & Ahlerta, 2004; Szymanski & Hise, 2000) and trust (Cho, 2006). Yet, few papers have investigated how various website design aspects are differentially appreciated by men and women (Cyr & Bonanni, 2005; Simon, 2001), and have done so without any consilient theoretical grounding. Our framework is based on the evolutionary underpinnings of sex differences in cognition, these being founded on the differential roles assumed by men and women throughout our evolutionary history. Specifically, whereas men predominantly hunted, women primarily gathered. This division of labor exerted a sex-specific selective pressure on various aspects of human cognition, leading to male cognitive abilities specialized for hunting and female cognitive abilities specialized for gathering (Alexander, 2003; Geary 1995; New, Krasnow, Truxaw, & Gaulin, 2007; Silverman & Eals, 1992). In the ensuing section, sex differences in spatial and perceptual processing are reviewed in light of the evolutionary forces that led to their development. In addition, the findings from the few studies that have investigated how men and women process online information differently are discussed within the context of our proposed framework.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Euclidean navigation: A navigational strategy that utilizes geometrical properties of the environment such as distances, angles, and cardinal directions.

Hunter-gatherer theory: The proposition that the sexual division of labor that existed throughout human evolution when men primarily hunted while women predominately gathered led to the evolution of sex-specific cognitive abilities.

Neurocognitive psychology: The study of cognitive functions and their associations to particular brain areas and neural pathways.

Pull-down menu: A list of navigational options that appears only when the item is selected.

Topological navigation: A navigational strategy that relies predominantly on landmarks and their relational properties.

Evolutionary psychology: The study of the adaptive functions of the mind and how its cognitive structure was shaped by natural and sexual selection to solve recurrent problems that existed in human ancestral environments.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): A neuroimaging technique that measures neural activity in the brain and allows the mapping of particular brain areas associated with various psychological phenomena.

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