We Make Dumb Decisions When We Shop on Empty Stomachs, Researchers Confirm

It turns out that when we’re hungry, we lose our ability to distinguish between want and need

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

What’s worse, we end up spending more and choosing things we don’t need.

In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers confirmed that we really, really shouldn’t be shopping while hungry.

According to the study, just the state of being hungry “is likely to activate general concepts and behavioral knowledge associated with acquisition,” which means that we become worse at deciding the difference between something we need and something we want.

Even non-food items fall into the net of things that, suddenly, we feel the urge to acquire.

The researchers, led by Alison Jing Xu, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota, conducted five studies to examine the effects of hunger on our decision-making abilities.

In one study, real grocery shoppers were asked to complete a questionnaire that included a question about how hungry they were. Researchers found that hungry shoppers not only spent more, but also purchased more non-food items than their less hungry counterparts.

Essentially, that means that the desire to eat, a “biologically-based motivation,” is powerful enough to supersede our ability to make decisions, even when those decisions seem unrelated to food.

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