Looking at this emotional state through a biological lens, researchers have said that people can be more aggressive when they are low on blood sugar.
"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. We've all heard of the term "hangry" - when something as simple as skipping a meal can change your mood from pleasant into irrationally cranky.
For the study, researchers performed two experiments, one online and one in a lab setting.
The researchers conducted two experiments. The first was based on 400 volunteers from the United States that were shown images created to induce positive, neutral, or negative responses. Then they were shown an "ambiguous" image-a Chinese pictograph-and were asked to rate, on a scale of one through seven, how pleasant or unpleasant the pictograph made them feel. Participants were also asked to report how hungry they felt.
Those who felt hungrier and were shown the angry dog tended to rate the pictogram as unpleasant, insinuating to researchers that existing negativity contributed to negative interpretations later on.
"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", she said.
This time, 118 of the students were told to fast for 5 hours, and 118 were told to eat before the experiment.
When they came in, some of the students were asked to complete a writing exercise created to direct their focus on their emotions.
The researcher then showed up and blamed the computer crash on the participant, before asking them to complete a survey dealing with emotion and satisfaction. The scenario was set up so participants experienced a computer crash just before they had completed the task.
Participants were then asked to fill out questionnaires on their emotions and their perception of the quality of the experiment.
Based on the study's results, hungrier participants had a greater chance of giving the pictograph a negative rating after they were shown a negative image beforehand. They even thought that the researcher conducting the experiment was more judgmental or harsh.
According to MacCormack, it's not just environmental cues that can affect whether someone goes from hungry to hangry. For the study, psychologists presented 400 people with images that evoked positive, neutral or negative feelings.Overall, the study found that people who were hungry more often saw the pictures in a negative light. "The objective of our research is to better understand the psychological mechanisms of hunger-induced emotional states - in this case, how someone becomes hangry". As McCormack points out, normally, when you feel yourself getting hungry, you want to get rid of the unpleasant sensation, so you simply make something to eat and move on with your life.