Culture 3 min read

Don't Make Major Decisions On An Empty Stomach

Decision-making processes could be altered by hunger, so make sure that you're not making your decisions on an empty stomach.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

You’ve heard that its a bad idea to go food shopping when hungry. Now researchers at the University of Dundee are also saying that you should avoid making life-changing decisions on an empty stomach.

Hunger is practically a part of our everyday lives.

Children go to school without having breakfast, and people now practice calorie restriction diets. Also, different religious fasting requires a varying degree of abstinence or reduction of food intake.

As such, it becomes crucial to understand the covert ways hunger can affect our preferences and decision making. That’s what a psychology professor at the University of Dundee, Dr. Benjamin Vincent and his former student Jordan Skrynka, did in a recent study.

They discovered that hunger significantly alters the way we make decisions. We could become impatient and more likely to settle for a small reward that’ll arrive soon rather than wait for a larger one at a later date.

What’s more, this preference extends to decisions that are unrelated to food. These include interpersonal choices as well as the financial ones.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Benjamin Vincent, said:

“We found there was a large effect. People’s preferences shifted dramatically from the long to short term when hungry. This is an aspect of human behavior which could potentially be exploited by marketers so people need to know their preferences may change when hungry.”

So, why does this happen?

How an Empty Stomach can Alter Decision-Making Processes

For the study, the researchers tested 50 participants twice – once when they were well fed, and once when they’re on an empty stomach. Then, they offered the respondents a small immediate reward or a more substantial reward that comes with a more extended waiting period.

The team noted that hungry participants opted for the small reward rather than wait for the large ones. According to the findings, participants were ordinarily willing to wait for 35 days to double the prize.

However, the waiting period reduced as their hunger increased. In the end, they were only willing to wait for three days.

The finding suggests that hunger makes people more impulsive, even when the decisions they have to make will do nothing to relieve the discomfort that comes from lack of food.

Dr. Vincent noted:

“Our research suggests this (hunger) could have an impact on other kinds of decisions as well. Say you were going to speak with a pension or mortgage advisor—doing so while hungry might make you care a bit more about immediate gratification at the expense of a potentially more rosy future.”

The researcher believes that the findings can help people foresee and mitigate the effect of hunger before making any decision that can affect their long-term goals.

Read More: How Brain Fluctuations Affect our Decision-Making Process

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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