There have been earlier studies that have shown that hunger can in fact affect the mood mainly because hunger is responsible for affecting hormones as well as the autonomic nervous system - both of which could have effects on mood. (Ummm, where's Stephanie Tanner when you need a spirited "how rude!"?) Given that the hungry participants were more emotional after the computer crashed, compounded by the other study's results, the researchers concluded that being hungry plays a significant role in how we emotionally react.
"We all know that hunger can sometimes affect our emotions and perceptions of the world around us, but it's only recently that the expression hangry, meaning bad-tempered or irritable because of hunger, was accepted by the Oxford Dictionary", said Jennifer MacCormack, the study's lead author and a PhD student at the UNC Chapel Hill Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
MacCormack recommends "simply taking a step back from the present situation and recognizing how you're feeling".
The findings can be found published online in the journal Emotion.
Coauthor Dr. Kristen Lindquist hypothesized that when a person experienced a hunger-induced negative emotion, this strong feeling is then perceived toward peers or certain situations. The combination of when we are extremely hungry which leads us to feel.well, extremely angry at the same time.
First, the team conducted two online experiments with over 400 Americans to determine how hunger affected their emotions. The authors showed them an image that was meant to initiate negative, neutral, or positive feelings. Then the participants were asked to rate a Chinese pictograph and express how hungry they feel.
This showed researchers that not being aware of emotions can cause us to be hangry - not just hunger. Their reactions after viewing a positive or neutral image however did not end up in a guess that the ambiguous picture was something unpleasant - same as not-hungry participants. "So there seems to be something special about unpleasant situations that makes people draw on their hunger feelings more than, say, in pleasant or neutral situations".
In a separate experiment on 200 people, participants were told to either eat or fast beforehand and then complete a writing test.
Unsurprisingly, when the participants were asked to fill out questionnaires on their emotions and the quality of the experiment, it was pretty negative.
The results showed that when participants were hungry, they were more likely to rate the ambiguous Chinese pictographs as negative, but only after first being shown a negative image.
However, hungry students who spent time thinking about their emotions before the computer exercise did not report negative emotions or social perceptions about the researcher.
In the experiments were conducted, the participants also thought that the researcher conducting the experiment was more judgemental or harsh.
"Our bodies play a powerful role in shaping our moment-to-moment experiences, perceptions, and behaviors - whether we are hungry versus full, exhausted versus rested or sick versus healthy", said MacCormack.