‘Hangry is real’: psychologists find link between hunger and emotions | Psychology

For those who get spicy when they skip lunch, this could be the perfect excuse: Researchers have confirmed that a lack of food makes people who are otherwise tolerable “hungry.”

In one of the first studies to examine how hunger affects emotions in everyday life, psychologists found that the more hungry people felt, the angrier — or hungrier — they became.

The study came about after Prof. Viren Swami, a social psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University, was told more than once that he was hangry and needed to do something about it. The challenge made him wonder if being hangry was a real phenomenon.

Working with researchers in Austria and Malaysia, Swami recruited 64 adults ages 18 to 60 to record their emotions and hunger pangs five times a day for three weeks. While the relationship between hunger and emotions was studied in labs, the volunteers monitored their feelings during their daily routines.

In the journal Plos One, the psychologists describe how hunger was associated with stronger feelings of anger and irritability and lower levels of pleasure. “It turns out that being hangry is real,” Swami said.

The research does not propose radical solutions, but Swami believes that being able to recognize and label the emotion in itself can be helpful. “Many times we may be aware of what we’re feeling, but we don’t understand its cause. If we can label it, we’re better able to do something about it,” he said.

Researchers have a number of hypotheses that try to explain why hunger can control our emotions. One is based on studies suggesting that low blood sugar increases impulsivity, anger, and aggression. But it’s not clear whether such a loss of self-control can come from small drops in blood glucose. Another argues that when people are hungry, they are more likely to see the world through irritable eyes.

Regardless of the mechanism, Swami believes the study raises a serious point: children who go to school hungry are less likely to learn effectively and more likely to have behavioral problems, so making sure students are well-nourished should be a priority. to be. “It’s very important to be able to identify emotions like hangry so that we can mitigate the negative effects,” he said.

For adults who notice their social skills decline after skipping lunch, the advice is clear: “Don’t go hungry,” Swami said. “Although that is easier said than done for many people.”

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