Scientists find out what makes you go from hungry to hangry
American Psychological Association said that more than just a simple drop in blood sugar, the combination of hunger and anger may be a complicated emotional response involving an interplay of biology, personality and environmental cues.
“We know that hunger can sometimes affect our emotions and perceptions of the world around us but it’s only recently that the expression hangry, meaning bad-tempered or irritable because of hunger, was accepted by the Oxford Dictionary,” said Jennifer MacCormack of the University of North Carolina, who is the lead author of the study published by the American Psychological Association in the Emotion journal.
“The purpose of our research is to better understand the psychological mechanisms of hunger-induced emotional states – in this case, how someone becomes hangry,” she added.
According to her, when someone is hungry, there are two key things that determine if that hunger will contribute to negative emotions or not, this would be context and self-awareness.
“You don’t just become hungry and start lashing out at the universe,” co-author Kristen Lindquist said.
“We’ve all felt hungry, recognized the unpleasantness as hunger, had a sandwich and felt better. 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,” she further said.
To come up with the results, 400 individuals in the US were subjected to online experiments. In one experiment, these individuals were asked to describe certain images that are really designed to induce positive, neutral or negative feelings, while also disclosing how hungry they felt at that moment.
In one instance, they were shown an ambiguous image – a Chinese pictograph – and asked to rate it on a seven-point scale from pleasant to unpleasant.
The researchers found that hungrier participants were more likely to rate ambiguous Chinese pictographs as negative. There was no effect for neutral or positive images.
“The idea here is that the negative images provide a context for people to interpret their hunger feelings as meaning the pictographs were unpleasant,” MacCormack said. “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.”