Skip to main content

Are You Really You When You Are Hungry?


When you run into your wife screaming in your face, or your boss explodes angry at you, it might be helpful to offer them a good meal to block the way on any expected wave of anger or quarrel.

This advice comes after researchers from the U.S. University of North Carolina developed a new definition of "hunger-related anger" as a real emotion. So what makes a person switch from feeling hungry to "full anger"?
This combination of hunger and anger may be a complex emotional response, involving biological and personal interactions and environmental stimuli, according to new research published last June by the American Psychological Association.
About 650 people participated in the study, which involved three research linked together. The latest research was conducted to gain a better understanding of the psychological mechanisms of emotional states caused by hunger.

The research team monitored the role of external environmental influences and factors, the inner self or emotional awareness of a hungry person, towards life situations, and the impact on his judgment on the people around him.

According to the study, published in the journal Scientific emotion of the American Psychological Association, hungry people had a negative outlook, compared to their full-fledged peers.

The results concluded that when a person is hungry, two main things determine whether or not hunger will contribute to negative emotions: context and self-awareness.

Hunger, thirst, and drowsiness

"To my knowledge, there are no studies that directly link feelings of hunger to their effect on perception and emotion," Jennifer McCormack, principal researcher and doctoral student in the Department of psychology and neuroscience at the College of Arts at the University of North Carolina, said in a science statement.

"So explaining these differences in the self-awareness of hungry people is a necessity to clarify whether they are more likely to feel angry, compared to those who feel full," she added.

This is the hypothesis that McCormack has pursued during three research in this context. In the first, the researcher used a measure of implicit bias in the context of social judgments (e.g. race and politics) but here, in the latest research, the effect of the participants ' hunger was measured and demonstrated its interaction with the negative context, which resulted in more bias in their emotional assessments towards ambiguous influences.

Images of Chinese Mandarin symbols were the "mystery influencer" in the experiment, which involved 250 US citizens, aged 18 to 70, of whom 465% were women.

But before asking participants how they felt about these symbols, whether they were negative or not, they were first asked to see negative images "in order to create a negative context", and asked to rank their feelings about these images on a scale of 1 to 7 to express the intensity of the positive down to the intensity of the negative.

Participants also had to answer a statement of opinion on how and how easy it was to perform this task, as well as questions about their conditions of hunger, thirst, and drowsiness.

Statistical analysis showed that hungry people were more likely to classify Chinese images as negative, compared to people who felt full, which means they responded to the negative impact of the stimuli they were exposed to, which was not achieved in cases of feeling thirsty or drowsy.

The study is a model for an experiment focused on the external context; participants were asked to judge the qualities of the images, rather than how they felt about seeing them.

Hunger linked with anger

To confirm the link between hunger and only negative rather than positive response, the researcher resorted to second research, involving 140 other people, in which participants were exposed to images with an average degree of negative or positive impact.

The results showed no direct relationship between hunger and positive response. Unlike people who experienced thirst and drowsiness, they were the most positively rated images.

Scroll to Continue

According to Hanan Salem, assistant professor of sociology at Ain Shams University, she highlighted the prevalence of anger and quarrels, as well as the increase in crime rates in poor communities suffering from hunger and poverty, pointing out that the food search is a basic need that all living beings-not just humans– seek to meet in order to ensure survival.

She stressed that the culture of Arab societies attaches great priority to meeting their food needs, and we find the struggle to provide it as-for some groups of society - a priority over other needs, such as education and treatment, for example.

Individuals may be more likely to feel like victims of "hunger coupled with anger," when they do not consciously focus on their inner feelings, but rather on external circumstances. "The current study is a first step toward addressing and understanding whether people perceive negative feelings of hunger, such as anger and stress, when they don't know they're actually doing it," says McCormack.

In the third research, she sought to confirm the results of research 1 and 2, by manipulating the feelings of hunger versus satiety, and its effect on the emotional perception and will of the 236 University psychology students. During the experiment they were randomly divided into two groups, the first being the hunger group, fasting for 5 hours or more, and the second being the satiety group.

This was followed by their division into three subgroups, between anger, sadness, and unconsciousness. By subjecting students to a scenario designed to provoke negative emotions, they were then asked to perform a writing exercise designed to direct their focus on their emotions, but after prior exposure to fasting or eating.

The researchers found an increase in feelings of tension and hatred between people starving, as they did not focus to understand the consequences of their own, have not been informed about these challenges in their feelings or concepts of their social experience, which means that the condition of our bodies play a major role in how we deal with everyday experiences.

Before the beginning of the trial, participants signed informed consent and a blood glucose resolution to ensure that they followed the guidelines of fasting and eating according to the instructions. The questionnaire also included items on the number of hours of fasting, drinking, the quality of drinks, and the meal they ate. They were also asked to identify their current feelings.

Participants in the experiment were shown images of geometric shapes on a computer screen and were asked to determine whether they could be rotated in the vacuum to achieve a match between them. Participants were also told how to get out of the task when they felt they had completed the experiments as best they could. The next part included showing pictures of a man's face, and participants were asked to determine what a man thinks and feels, whether it is anger, sadness, or nothing.

In the final part of the experiment, the participants were tested on the computer to determine the number of colored circles in front of them, whether it is even or odd, the answer being accurate and done quickly, and after 100 new attempts, the participants were surprised by a message about a computer malfunction. As part of the participants ' psychological experience without their knowledge, the supervisors are surprised and try to fix it in vain, eventually telling the participants that they have to answer the questions again after the device is repaired.

About this part of the experiment, the lead researcher says: this malfunction left participants in a state of distress, anger, and confusion, which we wanted to know and test how they deal with these effects and how they perceive their emotions, and the triggers behind them. It continues: we later gave them two opinion questionnaires, the first to classify the quality of the experience and the moderators, and the second to classify their feelings.

The results showed our preconceptions; hungry people were more likely to classify anger, while we found no correlation between hunger and their expression or use of words, which meant that these people did not know the truth about their internal problem, rather than focusing on negative external influences.

Ability to control and anger

He agrees with the results of this study "Ibrahim Magdi", consultant psychiatrist, pointing out that the method applied in the study relied on proving some literary theories about the relationship between hunger and anger from the point of view of Social Psychology, adding that it is a feeling expressed unintentionally to hear sentences such as "I can not think while hungry", and to see some become nervous and do not accept talking while waiting for his meal, while

Magdy explains: If we look for scientific explanations behind this relationship, we will find that the Centers of hunger in the brain are in tune with some of the other centers responsible for the ability to control and anger, that there are chemicals such as serotonin - responsible for the sense of happiness and mild mood, and some foods help to increase or decrease Various scientific research has also found evidence to support these hypotheses, such as using magnetic resonance imaging to measure the passage of blood and oxygen to the brain and its changes when eating or abstaining from it.

Modern science has found that certain foods are associated with elevating an individual's positive feeling/ such as when eating ice cream, nuts, chicken breast, fish, and dairy products.

It goes on: in contrast to fatty foods full of oils and fats, as well as fast-processed and preserved ones that make a person more prone to arousal, hyperactivity, and tightness. All of this is the result of the influence on chemicals that regulate brain function and mood control, he said.

It was striking that the study used the term hangry or "hunger-related anger" in reference to the phenomenon in which some people become angry when they are late for food.

According to the researcher, they found that this feeling is produced when a person feels discomfort due to hunger but does not realize it, and resorts to interpreting these feelings strongly towards others or the situation he is going through.


Mohamed Brirhet on April 24, 2021:

The decision to eat is affected by a host of factors: sights, smells, social settings, and more.

We eat to satisfy our appetites but also to soothe emotions, celebrate victories, satisfy cultural expectations -- and because it just tastes good.

Never knew that being hungry makes you angry.

Related Articles