Ever experience that delightful mix of hunger and anger, otherwise known as feeling “hangry?” Researchers may have found a reason why.
A study published by the American Psychological Association finds environmental cues and a person’s emotional awareness can decide whether someone becomes “hangry.”
Researchers performed two online experiments with more than 400 people in the U.S. Participants were randomly shown an image designed to induce either positive, neutral, or negative feelings. They were then shown a Chinese pictograph, and were asked to rate it based on pleasantness. They also reported how hungry they were.
Results showed hungrier participants were more likely to rate the pictographs as negative, but only after first viewing a negative image.
“The idea here is that the negative images provided a context for people to interpret their hunger feelings as meaning the pictographs were unpleasant,” said lead author Jennifer MacCormack, MA, a doctoral student in the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a statement. “So there seems to be something special about unpleasant situations that makes people draw on their hunger feelings more than, say, in pleasant or neutral situations.”
In a separate lab experiment involving 200 UNC students, participants were told to fast or eat beforehand, then complete a writing exercise. Researchers performed tasks to increase participants’ stress level, including programming computers to crash before the exercise was finished. Participants then filled out questionnaires.
Findings showed students who were hungry reported more unpleasant emotions than the students who ate.
“Our bodies play a powerful role in shaping our moment-to-moment experiences, perceptions and behaviors — whether we are hungry versus full, tired versus rested or sick versus healthy,” said MacCormack.
Results of the study were published in the journal Emotion.
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