Architecture changes our behavior

Does our behavior change when we are hungry?

Hunger is an uncomfortable condition. You get grumpy and irritable - the longer nothing lands in your stomach, the lower your mood sinks. Some psychological studies have shown that hungry people are particularly selfish. However, an international team of psychologists from Gießen, Hildesheim, Bamberg, Amsterdam and Oxford could not confirm this result. Hunger does not lead to increased egoism, is their conclusion.

For the experimental studies, the subjects were asked not to eat anything for at least twelve hours before the start of the studies. So you came to the lab very hungry and with low blood sugar levels. There, the control group was given something to eat, and two cups of chocolate pudding produced a quick satiety and a high blood sugar level. The experimental group remained hungry for the further experiment.

Afterwards, the subjects had to perform various tasks with which the researchers could measure selfish behavior. For example, the test participants received a sum of ten euros and could split it between themselves and the others. Other tasks involved behaving cooperatively in order to then achieve a higher profit together. Sometimes there was also the possibility of punishing the other subjects' selfish behavior. The hungry study participants, however, did not behave more selfishly than the saturated test subjects.

Fear of sanctions

In another study, the psychologists examined whether the selfish tendencies are more likely to be found when food is shared rather than money. To do this, the researchers set up a stand in front of the cafeteria of the Justus Liebig University in Giessen (JLU) and let students who either just went to the cafeteria - i.e. were hungry - and students who came out of the canteen - i.e. were full -, Split up money or small packets of trail mix.

The result: Here, too, no evidence could be found that hunger makes people more selfish - regardless of whether money or food was shared. "Although acute hunger may intensify egoistic impulses, these are often not reflected in behavior," says study leader Jan Häusser, interpreting the results. "We assume that the social framework - for example possible sanctions or the threat of loss of social standing - are so strong that such selfish impulses are thwarted." The researchers emphasize, however, that their results cannot make any statements about the long-term effects of hunger, but only relate to acute states of hunger. (red, October 20, 2019)