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Researchers Breakdown When You Go From Hungry to “Hangry”


It’s easy to get aggravated and irritated when you’re hungry. But why do some people get downright “hangry”? It turns out that hunger alone isn’t the driving force when it comes to the distinction between hunger and hanger. According to a new study published in the journal Emotion, both context and self-awareness are determining factors.

“You don’t just become hungry and start lashing out at the universe,” said Kristen Lindquist, PhD, the study’s co-author. “We’ve all felt hungry. We find that feeling hangry happens when you feel unpleasantness due to hunger but interpret those feelings as strong emotions about other people or the situation you’re in.”

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Unpleasant Situations Trigger the Onset of Hanger

To better understand the link between hunger and emotions, the researchers conducted three separate experiments. The first two experiments were conducted online and included more than 400 U.S. adults. Some were hungry, some were not. All of the participants viewed images designed to evoke positive, neutral or negative feelings. Then, they viewed an ambiguous Chinese character and asked to rate how pleasant or unpleasant the image was.

The research team discovered that the hungrier participants were more likely to rate the Chinese character as negative, but only after being primed with negative images beforehand. (If they were originally primed with positive or neutral images, their ratings weren’t any different from people who were not hungry.) “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. “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.”

Tuning Into Your Emotions Can Offset Negative Thoughts When You’re Hungry

The third experiment took place in the laboratory. Researchers asked 200 university students to either fast or eat beforehand. Then, the students completed a writing exercise designed to either direct their attention to emotions, or not to focus on emotions. Next, the participants were assigned a tedious computer task. But it was rigged. The computer was designed to crash before the task could be completed. To make the situation even worse, researchers blamed the participant for the computer crash.

The hungry students who did not focus on emotions in the earlier writing exercise reported more negative emotions — like feeling stressed and hateful. They also thought that the researcher conducting the experiment was more judgmental or harsh. However, participants who spent time thinking about their emotions did not report these shifts in emotions or social perceptions, even when hungry.

According to MacCormack, there appears to be something special about unpleasant situations that makes people draw on their hunger feelings more than they would in pleasant or neutral situations. “A well-known commercial once said, ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry,’ but our data hint that by simply taking a step back from the present situation and recognizing how you’re feeling, you can still be you even when hungry,” MacCormack said.


American Psychological Association. “Are you really you when you’re hungry? Hunger can lead to anger, but it’s more complicated than a drop in blood sugar, study says.” ScienceDaily. June 2018.

Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”

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