While many of us know that “hangry” is definitely a real thing, new research shows that feeling famished can lead to poor decision-making.
Scientists at the University of Dundee found that hunger can significantly alter how people make important decisions and lead to impatience.
Hunger may also change preferences for rewards completely unrelated to food, the study published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review suggested.
It was also found to affect other types of decisions such as financial or interpersonal ones.
A group of 50 participants were tested twice for the study – once when they had eaten normally and once having not eaten anything that day.
Feeling hungry can result in being impatient
When hungry, people expressed a stronger preference for smaller hypothetical rewards to be given immediately instead of larger ones that would arrive at a later time.
Leader of the study Benjamin Vincent said it is important that people know that being hungry can affect their preferences. He also believes it is a danger for those in poverty who may make decisions that entrench their situation.
He said those trying to function on an empty stomach could potentially be exploited by marketers and that people need to know their preferences may change when they’re running on empty.
Mr Vincent added: “People generally know that when they are hungry they shouldn’t really go food shopping because they are more likely to make choices that are either unhealthy or indulgent.”
He said that the research showed that hunger could have an impact on other decisions as well.
“Say you were going to speak with a pensions or mortgage adviser – doing so while hungry might make you care a bit more about immediate gratification at the expense of a potentially more rosy future.”
The scientists also found that most people were willing to wait 35 days for a large reward, but when hungry they would take a reward worth half as much in three days.