Grocery shopping when you’re hungry is typically not a good idea—you’re likely to fill your cart with unhealthy or overly indulgent items. But recent research from the University of Dundee suggests that hunger can affect far weightier decisions than what to buy at the store.
In the study, researchers asked participants questions relating to food, money and other rewards when satiated and again when they had skipped a meal. Researchers discovered that when participants were hungry, they settled for short-term gratification (whatever food was presented) and strayed from or delayed decision-making on longer-term goals, such as financial planning.
Data from the study indicate that hunger makes people more impulsive, even when the decisions they are asked to make will do nothing to relieve their hunger.
“This work fits into a larger effort in psychology and behavioral economics to map the factors that influence our decision-making,” researcher Dr. Benjamin Vincent says. “Say you were going to speak with a pensions or mortgage adviser—doing so while hungry might make you care a bit more about immediate gratification at the expense of a potentially more rosy future.”