Hungry and angry? Researchers figure out what makes you hangry

Desiree Burns
June 13, 2018

The study's lead author Jennifer MacCormack, said: "The goal of our research is to better understand the psychological mechanisms of hunger-induced emotional states-in this case, how someone becomes hangry".

Hangry is one of those words that absolutely sounds made up and is just a result of the Millennial generation's need to put a label on every feeling and experience and pose made in pictures.

"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", say MacCormack.

To arrive at their findings, the researchers carried out two online experiments on 400 participants in the U.S. The individuals were shown an image meant to trigger positive, neutral or negative feelings. Some of them were shown an image created to induce positive feelings, others were shown a negative image, while others were shown a neutral image, such as a Chinese pictograph. Afterwards, they were shown an ambiguous image and asked to rate it on a seven-point scale from pleasant to unpleasant.

Researchers performed two online experiments with more than 400 people in the U.S. Participants were randomly shown an image created to induce either positive, neutral, or negative feelings. "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".

MORE: You Asked: Why Do I Get Hangry?

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The study published in the journal Emotion showed that context and self-awareness appear to be the two determining factors of hanger. In a lab experiment involving 200 university students, researchers asked participants to either eat or fast beforehand.

'You don't just become hungry and start lashing out at the universe, ' said assistant Dr Kristen Lindquist, the study's co-author.

A minority of the survey respondents, however, saw abstract things through filters of sadness or anger when they were hungry. Some of the students were asked to complete a writing exercise about their emotions and others wrote about a neutral, everyday experience. Researchers performed tasks to increase participants' stress level, including programming computers to crash before the exercise was finished. Researchers then quizzed the participants on how hungry they felt. At the moment of the malfunction, a researcher entered the room and blamed the student for the computer trouble.

Participants were then asked to fill out a questionnaire on their emotion and the quality of the experiment. Interestingly it was only the hungry participants that were also shown an image that caused negative feelings that rated the pictographs as negative. This implied, to the researchers, that people who are less aware of their emotional states may be more likely to react with hanger.

"We've all felt hungry, recognised the unpleasantness as hunger, had a sandwich and felt better". "The goal of our research is to better understand the psychological mechanisms of hunger-induced emotional states - in this case, how someone becomes hangry". "The goal of our research is to better understand the psychological mechanisms of hunger-induced emotional states - in this case, how someone becomes hangry".

More research is needed to further understand why some people can't skip breakfast without getting miserable by lunchtime, but these studies provide initial clues.

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