Scientists say: hunger makes us angry only when we do not recognize it
Many people feel more irritable, nervous and even angry when they are hungry. And this does not seem strange to us, since the idea that hunger affects our feelings and behavior is widely supported by mass culture – from films to advertising and Internet memes. At the same time, surprisingly few studies are devoted to the emotional component of hunger. Although it would be unfair to say that there is no such research at all.
Preliminary studies show that hunger has the ability to influence mood , probably because it activates many body systems directly related to emotions, including the autonomic nervous system and hormones. For example, when we are hungry, our body releases many hormones, including stress cortisol and adrenaline. As a result, hunger, especially high intensity, makes us feel the tension, discomfort and blurred consciousness.
Hunger and feelings: how they are connected
The idea in psychology, known as the theory of “affect as information,” argues that the mood can temporarily form the way we see the world . Thus, when we are hungry, we can look at things in a more negative light than when we are not hungry. But here’s the problem – people are probably under the great influence of emotions when they are not concentrated on them.
To test whether hungry people are more likely to find themselves in negative situations when they are not focused on their feelings, Kristen Lindquist and Jennifer K. MacCormack of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) developed and conducted three experiments at once.
Experiments 1 and 2
In the first two, as McCormack writes in his text for The Conversation, they asked people (some of them were hungry and some satiated) to evaluate negative, positive and neutral emotional images. For example, they were offered to look at something that at the same time resembles a Chinese symbol and pictogram, and then to suggest whether it means something pleasant or, on the contrary, something unpleasant.
Hungry people in this case thought that the pictogram means something unpleasant. Nevertheless, the ratings of hungry people for positive or neutral emotional pictures did not differ from the ratings of those who managed to have a good refreshment.
This, researchers explain, says that in the case of hunger, nothing special happens when the situation causes us positive or neutral emotions. At the same time, hunger begins to manifest itself (and quite actively) if we encounter negative incentives or situations.
The theory of “affect as information” also suggests that people are more likely to use their feelings as information about the world around, when these feelings correspond to the situation in which they are. Hunger, most likely, becomes relevant in negative situations, because the hunger itself causes unpleasant feelings.
“In the final study, we divided the undergraduate students into two random groups, after which one of them was recommended to fast for at least five hours before the study, and the second – to eat a full meal right before entering the laboratory.
There we instructed them to write a story with a requirement either to reflect their emotions in it, or not to pay any attention to them at all. Then all students completed a long and rather tedious computer task. Moreover, the computer was programmed in such a way that the failure necessarily occurred in the final, after which the moderator accused the student of the incident, saying that he would have to solve the problem again, “writes Jennifer McCormack.
As a result, it became clear that hungry people who did not focus on feelings at the time of writing the text were sluggish and angry at the end of the study. They reported on the tension, hatred of everything that was happening and other negative emotions, and also did not say too much about the moderator who shifted the blame for the computer malfunction to them. All this, however, did not happen with well-fed students or with hungry, but writing the text with an emphasis on their emotions.
How to “tame” hunger
All of the above suggests that the negative associated with hunger arises when you are trying to discover the cause of this negative in the surrounding world. And this, scientists add, is a rather unconscious process: people do not even suspect that this is happening to them.
“Our data show that understanding and accepting the fact that you are hungry, and therefore angry, can lead to a more positive assessment of reality and even reduce the feeling of hunger,” the authors conclude. And at the same time – they call on all of us to try using this technique to become a little more optimistic .