Why hunt, why gather and why share? Foraging and food-sharing motives in a human population


Many evolutionary biologists and anthropologists seek to uncover the rationales and reasoning behind resource collection and distribution. Researchers have attempted to come up with explanations for these behaviours, particularly within hunter-gatherer populations, such as the Hadza. Responses have explored the possibilities of family-provisioning, reciprocity, and skill-signalling being key incentives. However, never have these answers been procured explicitly from the communities themselves. Therefore, the current article takes a ‘self-report’ approach to this study, aiming to understand through direct questioning, what the Hadza believe are their most important motives for resource foraging and sharing.


110 Hazda participants were recruited and asked a series of free-response, yes/no, ranking and forced-choice questions. The free-response results showed a greater diversity of motivations for sharing than foraging, with gender differences more apparent in sharing responses. In the ranking tasks, the most common motivations for foraging were family-provisioning, skill-signalling, and sharing. Motivations for sharing were reciprocity, food rotting and desire to demonstrate generosity. The forced-choice data showed that most respondents reported that avoiding complaints was not as important as sharing food with the camp as a motive for foraging, nor were avoiding complaints as important as reciprocity was for sharing motives. Small gender differences arose for foraging motives; women ranked family-provisioning highly whereas men ranked skill-signalling highly. However, motivations were overall relatively similar between women and men.


Past researchers have believed that because the self-report method can cause a lack of validity and might not reveal ultimate-level responses, it is not a worthwhile methodology. However, the results of this study show that self-report is useful when understanding adaptive motivations behind food-sharing in hunter-gatherer communities. The importance of collecting information directly from Hadza members outweighs the potential compromising of accuracy. Further research should aim to have hunter-gatherer members disclose their own motivations instead of having them choose from list created by experimenters. Entry by Havovi Khareghat


Behavioural ecology

Subject Group

Zoology and Ecology






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on Mon Jan 09 2023

Article ID


Details of original research article:

Stibbard-Hawkes DNE, Smith K, Apicella CL. Why hunt? Why gather? Why share? Hadza assessments of foraging and food-sharing motive. Evolution and Human Behavior. 2022;43:257-272.


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