Snickers says you’re not you when you’re hungry, and in some ways it’s right. As the ads suggest, you are more likely to be crotchety when you’re feeling peckish. According to the New Yorker, being hangry is a real thing that was documented in a 1946 study called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. The researchers published their studies in a guidebook for aid workers, and advised them to refrain from arguments with starving people in their care, and to avoid loud noises and other irritants.
Other studies have found that hunger makes you stingier, meaner, and more likely to hoard useless crap. A report called Hunger Promotes Acquisition of Nonfood Objects found that famished shoppers at a mall spent up to 60% more than well-fed shoppers on non-edible purchases. When the same researchers offered free Staples binders to a group of volunteers, half of whom were hungry, they found the ravenous ones took home 70% more binders that the satisfied ones. “In other words, the desire to grab something to eat becomes the desire to grab anything at all,” says the New Yorker.
But scientists have also found that an empty stomach has a number of beneficial side effects. Various experiments on lab rodents have shown that hungry rats and mice have a better sense of smell, navigate mazes faster, run further on treadmills, and are less likely to feel depression or despair when faced with adversity. (Adversity includes bullying by other mice and being left to swim/drown in an inescapable cylinder of water, which we’re pretty sure would depress us no matter how hungry we were.)
A bit of starvation not only increases your mental processing and sensory perception, but it also leads to bolder behavior and greater risk taking. And all those factors together can make you a better gambler, according to a 2014 study conducted at Utrecht University. Researchers asked both hungry and well-fed gamblers to draw cards from two decks. “The first deck contains cards with very high and very low face values, which bring correspondingly extreme rewards and penalties. The other deck contains middling numbers—and, it gradually emerges, more losing cards than winning ones.”
The famished gamblers were much better at figuring out that the first deck yielded the best results, and weren’t scared to take the greater risk for the sake of a greater reward. In their results, the researchers suggest that hunger caused them to rely more on their gut feelings—and it paid off. When they published their findings, they titled their paper “Always Gamble on an Empty Stomach.” We’re taking their advice to heart, and sticking to a liquid diet next time we go to Vegas.
[via The New Yorker]