Posted on Sep 16, 2019, 6 p.m.
You may want to think twice before making any decisions, especially if important when you are hungry as recent research suggests that making important decisions on an empty stomach can lead to poor choices.
University of Dundee research has found that hunger can significantly alter decision making to make people more impatient and more likely to settle for a small immediate reward rather than a larger delayed reward.
As published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review the findings suggest that being hungry changes preferences for rewards unrelated to food which may carry over into other kinds of decisions such as financial or interpersonal.
The researchers believe it is important the public be aware that being hungry may affect personal preferences, and there is a danger those in poverty may make decisions that will entrench their situation.
In this study a group of 50 subjects were tested twice a day: once after they had a meal, and once after not having eaten anything that day; when hungry subjects were observed to express a stronger preference for smaller immediate hypothetical rewards over larger ones that would arrive later.
It was noted that when offering subjects an instant reward or double that reward at a later date when not hungry subjects were willing to wait 35 days to double the reward, but when hungry the duration decreased to only 3 days.
According to Dr. Benjamin Vincent, “This is an aspect of human behaviour which could potentially be exploited by marketers, so people need to know their preferences may change when hungry. People generally know that when they are hungry they shouldn’t really go food shopping because they are more likely to make choices that are either unhealthy or indulgent.”
“Our research suggests this could have an impact on other kinds of decisions as well. 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.”
“This work fits into a larger effort in psychology and behavioural economics to map the factors that influence our decision-making. This potentially empowers people as they may foresee and mitigate the effects of hunger, for example, that might bias their decision-making away from their long-term goals.”
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.