After analyzing the results, they found that hungrier participants were more likely to feel negatively towards the Chinese pictograph after first viewing a negative image.
"The idea here is that the negative images provided a context for people to interpret their hunger feelings as meaning the pictographs were unpleasant," MacCormack explained. "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."
In another lab experiment, 200 university students were asked to either fast or eat beforehand. They then completed a writing activity that focused on their emotions and later participated in an exercise on the computer designed to crash before they could fulfill the assignment.
The scientists discovered that the hungry participants who were not focused on their emotions felt more negatively about the experiment than those who were focused on their emotions.
“A well-known commercial once said, ‘You're not you when you're hungry,’ but our data hint that by simply taking a step back from the present situation and recognizing how you're feeling, you can still be you even when hungry,” MacCormack said.
The researchers believe they could yield similar results if they explore other emotions, such as fatigue or inflammation. However, further investigation is needed.
"Our bodies play a powerful role in shaping our moment-to-moment experiences, perceptions and behaviors - whether we are hungry versus full, tired versus rested or sick versus healthy," she said. "This means that it's important to take care of our bodies, to pay attention to those bodily signals and not discount them."