3-year-old goes more than two hours without a snack, he turns
into a screaming, hangry monster. And if weíre being honest,
so do I.
Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, which
ended Thursday, and they donít all transform into the Hulk
for a month.
researchers have been studying hunger and anger and have found
that awareness of your emotions may help vanquish the grumpy,
hungry feeling sometimes called "hanger."
during Ramadan is as much an emotional, mental and spiritual
challenge as it is a physical challenge," Imran Aukhil,
spokesman for the Islamic Association of Raleigh, said.
"The UNC study is saying the human body experiences a
heightened state of anger after experiencing a negative
stimulus. Where the experience is different for Muslim people
is that we understand that, and we push ourselves to go the
zaps you with stress hormones, tinkers with your blood sugar
levels and causes physiological arousal, where you notice
something happening to your body. For example, you might not
notice your resting heart rate, but if youíre scared, youíll
notice your racing pulse.
happens when you mix up hunger, which is a bad physiological
feeling, with a bad emotional feeling.
wanted to look at specific ways that the body contributes to
emotion," study co-author and UNC graduate student
Jennifer MacCormack said. "Whatís your first impression
when you meet a stranger? (How) do you decide what to buy at
the store? These unobtrusive physiological signals shape the
way our brains process the world around us."
measured how hunger changed perceptions with an online study.
They blipped positive, negative or neutral images on a screen
ó things such as kittens, an angry dog or an iron. Then
participants saw an ambiguous Chinese character ó the study
excluded people familiar with Mandarin.
rated how pleasant they thought the character was. Hungry
participants who had seen an angry dog image guessed that the
Chinese characters were more negative than hungry people who
saw kittens or irons.
hunger by itself didnít affect the ratings. Only hungry,
negative-exposed people acted more like Debbie Downers than
people who were full. Hungry people exposed to neutral or
positive images acted the same as full people.
not the case that being hungry makes you a jerk," UNC
professor Kristin Lindquist, the other study co-author, said.
"You need to have some sort of instigating context. (Hangry)
people attribute their reactions to the context, and hunger
turns up the dial on what otherwise would be a mildly angry
establishing that negative contexts turned hungry people
hangry, Lindquist and MacCormack tested how people interacted
with live experimenters.
participants saw a picture of "Jon," a generic white
man, looking neutral, sad or angry. Then participants, who
fasted for five hours or ate less than an hour before the
experiment wrote short stories about what happened to Jon and
why he felt that way. The researchers wanted to find out
whether focusing on emotions makes you less likely to blame
others in bad situations, like the one that participants then
completing 100 trials of a "tedious task" of
counting whether a ring of circles was even or odd, their
computer "crashed." They had to find the
experimenter, who asked them, "What did you do? What keys
did you press?" and then left after some tinkering.
were more likely to say they felt "hate" or that the
experimenter was "judgmental" if they were hungry
and had written about neutral-faced Jon.
was the unpleasant negative context that allowed people to
misattribute their hunger to the experimenter in the
study," MacCormack said. "A lot of times, our body
is not directly producing a feeling of pleasantness or
unpleasantness. Itís making physiological arousal, and
people interpret automatically what that physiological arousal
means, (but itís) not a conscious process."
learning more about how hanger arises, we can learn how to
this story I tried to become hangry by not eating, but I was
so focused on my emotions that I didnít overreact hangrily.
Something similar might be happening when Muslims fast for
Ramadan, Lindquist said.
key is awareness," Lindquist said. "I would imagine
nothing makes you more aware of your hunger than fasting for
religious purposes. In that case, people are acutely aware of
the fact that theyíre very hungry and are good at not
misinterpreting their body states."
positivity" into your environment might also protect you
from hanger, MacCormack wrote in a recent article. So if youíre
fasting, you can avoid hanger if you give positive
connotations to the fast.
provides a positive, pleasant, meaningful context,"
MacCormack said. "The hunger could be interpreted and
constructed as a very different emotion, like a sense of awe
or humility or whatever religious emotions are special for
people during that time."
can happen to anyone, though people who are more in tune with
their bodies might be able to avoid it more. "Are there
Muslim people who struggle and donít achieve those mental
and spiritual goals and experience hanger? Absolutely,"
Aukhil said. "The goal is to not do that."
also noted, "If youíre more aware of your bodily cues,
you recognize that this is my body and this is not something
happening in the world around me. You can better identify the
so-called true cause of your feelings."