University Of North Carolina Study Explains Why People Get 'Hangry'

Do you feel angry when hungry? A study reported this is due to a complex interplay of personality and environmental factors

According to the latest research conducted by scientists from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, "hangry" is an intricate interplay between the feeling of hunger and one's level of awareness of that feeling and whatever events happening around the person. Results showed that people who were hungry and saw the negative image first were more likely to guess that the ambiguous picture was something negative or unpleasant.

"Our bodies play a powerful role in shaping our moment-to-moment experiences, perceptions and behaviors - whether we are hungry versus full, exhausted versus rested or sick versus healthy", lead author Jennifer MacCormack, MA, a doctoral student in the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. said in a statement.

And if you are feeling a little grumpy, take a step back and think about your emotions for a bit - it might help you from turning into a hangry mess.

The findings can be found published online in the journal Emotion.

"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", said co-author Kristen Lindquist from the varsity.

Science has revealed why you get annoyed when you want something to eat. Depending on the experiment, participants were shown an image created to induce positive, neutral or negative feelings. Then they were given an ambiguous image with a pictograph or a Chinese character and asked to guess if it could mean something pleasant or unpleasant.

As you might have guessed, the hungrier the test subject, the more likely he or she was to rate the pictograph negatively.

"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 Jennifer MacCormack, the study's lead author.

In a separate experiment on 200 people, participants were told to either eat or fast beforehand and then complete a writing test.

For a biological state of hunger to turn into an emotional state of anger, the researchers found that negative contexts and lack of self-awareness play a key role. But weirdly, hunger didn't make people rank neutral or positive images as unpleasant, MacCormack says. Afterward, they were asked to fill out questionnaires about their emotions.

In a third experiment, the researchers undertook a particularly gruelling laboratory experiment with almost 250 university students. All the students were then asked to write an essay that was either emotional or not related to feelings at all.

After the writing exercise, they were all asked to participate in an exercise where the computer crashed right before the exercise was over.

This showed researchers that not being aware of emotions can cause us to be hangry - not just hunger.

"Our bodies play a powerful role in shaping our moment-to-moment experiences, perceptions, and behaviors - whether we are hungry versus full, exhausted versus rested or sick versus healthy", said MacCormack.

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