Researchers find hunger pangs drive people to acquire more non-food objects

February 17, 2015 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report
Credit: Petr Kratochvil/public domain

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with members from institutions in the U.S. and Hong Kong has found that when people feel hunger, in addition to attempting to quash their pangs by eating, they will also acquire more non-food items. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes five laboratory and field studies they conducted that showed how people respond to non-food objects when they are hungry.

In the first study, the researchers asked volunteers to perform a word association task—some of the words on cards were related to acquisitions, others to food and others were not even real words. They were also asked before and after the tasks to rate how they were. The data showed that people in the study were more likely to associate acquisition words with food words when they were hungry.

In the second study, the researchers stopped people entering or leaving a café (after eating) and asked them about their mood and how much they would like to buy certain items. They found that those who had not yet eaten showed a marked desire to purchase certain non-food products.

In the third study, people at a store were asked if they would like some free binder clips to try—if so they were asked to answer a few other questions that involved how hungry they were. Participants were then asked how many clips they wanted. The researchers found that hungry people wanted more clips than those that were not hungry.

In the fourth study, the researchers asked volunteers to not eat prior to arriving for an experiment—they then asked them to participate in a cake taste test, which was followed by the same binder experiment in the third study. They found that the hungriest volunteers took the most free binder clips.

In the fifth study, the researchers queried 81 people who had just left a department store who allowed them to scan their shopping receipts and then answered questions about how hungry they were. The researchers found that those who shopped when hungry, tended to buy more non-food items than did those who were not hungry.

In reviewing all their data, the team found that while hunger clearly caused an increase in non-food acquisition, whether people had to pay for it or not, it did not increase the level of satisfaction experienced by those people that had acquired such things.

Explore further: Short-term food deprivation appears linked to high-calorie food options

More information: Hunger promotes acquisition of nonfood objects, Alison Jing Xu, Norbert Schwarz, and Robert S. Wyer, Jr. PNAS,

Related Stories

Short-term food deprivation appears linked to high-calorie food options

May 6, 2013
A research letter by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., and Aner Tal, Ph.D., of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., suggests that hungry grocery shoppers tend to buy higher-calorie products.

When my eyes serve my stomach

March 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Our senses aren’t just delivering a strict view of what’s going on in the world; they’re affected by what’s going on in our heads. A new study finds that hungry people see food-related ...

Neuroscientists discover way to increase product value without making changes to it

March 10, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at the University of Texas has discovered a way to cause the perceived value of a product to rise, without changing the product itself: add a button that makes noise. In their ...

People who think they have eaten more feel less hungry hours after a meal

December 5, 2012
The memory of having eaten a large meal can make people feel less hungry hours after the meal, according to research published December 5 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Jeffrey Brunstorm and colleagues from the University ...

Hungry or not, kids will eat treats

October 21, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Even though they are not hungry, children as young as three will find high-energy treats too tempting to refuse, new QUT research has found.

Recommended for you

Videogame loot boxes similar to gambling

June 19, 2018
Adolescents playing video games that offer randomised rewards to increase competitive advantage could possibly be exposed to mechanisms that are psychologically similar to gambling, according to new research just published ...

Mental health declining among disadvantaged American adults

June 19, 2018
American adults of low socioeconomic status report increasing mental distress and worsening well-being, according to a new study by Princeton University and Georgetown University.

Study on social interactions could improve understanding of mental health risks

June 19, 2018
McLean Hospital investigators have released the results of a study that outlines how age, socioeconomic status, and other factors might contribute to social isolation and poorer mental health. In a paper published in the ...

Researchers find increased risk of birth defects in babies after first-trimester exposure to lithium

June 18, 2018
Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found an elevated risk of major congenital malformations in fetuses after first-trimester exposure to lithium, in the largest study ever to examine the risk of ...

Changing room playlist could give World Cup teams the edge

June 18, 2018
Blasting out Rihanna or Kanye West could give World Cup squads that crucial psychological edge over rival teams, suggests research from Brunel University London.

Helicopter parenting may negatively affect children's emotional well-being, behavior

June 18, 2018
It's natural for parents to do whatever they can to keep their children safe and healthy, but children need space to learn and grow on their own, without Mom or Dad hovering over them, according to new research published ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.