It's a common belief that hunger can exemplify a bad mood, spark irrational behaviour and cause great distress. But this new study that was published in the journal PLOS One (Public Library of Science) seems to disagree. In fact, it's the first of a kind to say that people make better decisions when they are hungry.
To test this theory, researchers at the Utrecht University, Netherlands, conducted three experiments on two groups of students. One of the groups was fasting while the other wasn't. Those who were fasting went on an empty stomach for almost 10 hours before taking a test, while the non-fasting group was treated to a generous breakfast, where they were free to eat and drink as much as they wanted.
'Sciencealert.com.au' reported that in the first two experiments, students took a psychological test known as the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), which is said to simulate real-life, complex decision making. It involved the various risks and rewards that come with gambling.
Researchers found that the group which was fasting performed better than the group which wasn't. They managed to grasp the pattern of long-term rewards over short-term gains. The state of being hungry was referred to as 'hot state' and it was the first time a study pointed out that being in a hot state improves decision making instead of weakening it.
According to the study, "These results show that people who were hungry because of having fasted overnight performed better on a complex decision task than sated people and thus provides a first piece of evidence that the hot state of hunger improves, rather than compromises, advantageous decision making."
In the third experiment, participants were presented with a set of 27 questions that required them to choose between being given a small amount of money at that moment or a larger amount of money in the future. This experiment supported the findings of the first two experiments, as the fasting participants opted for the larger amount of money in the future, whereas non-fasting participants were more likely to choose the first option.
Researchers concluded by saying that, "It may be that hot states in general, and hunger in particular, do not necessarily make people more impulsive but rather make them rely more on their gut feeling which benefits complex decisions making."