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Hungry People Make Better Life Decisions

Skip lunch before buying a house.

Don’t go to the grocery store hungry. It’s sage advice that will probably stop you from salivating over the whoopee pies in the bakery aisle. 

But when you go buy a house, you might want to skip lunch. Headed to buy an engagement ring? Keep the stomach empty. Trying to decide if you should quit your job? The mini muffins in the break room won’t help.

Research titled “Always Gamble On An Empty Stomach: Hunger is Associated With Advantageous Decision Making,” published this week in PLOS ONE, makes the stomach-growling claim that we make better long-term decisions if we’re hungry. 

In three separate studies, participants fasted overnight, then were randomly assigned to either feast on the study-provided breakfast or skip the free food. Both groups then completed the same test designed to measure risk taking and short-term, small-benefit versus long-term, larger-benefit decisions.

The empty stomach group took fewer risks and listened to their rumbling gut to make decisions that would benefit them more in the long term. This challenges the previous belief that hungry individuals would say, rather just stuff a cookie in their face than worry about their financial future.

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The authors believe the surprising findings could be attributed to our greater “reliance on emotion” when we’re hungry. Apparently, being more in tune with our own feelings makes us less likely to take risks. 

That’s good to know the next time you’re in a food coma, ready to invest in your buddy’s flowers-for-beards company.


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