In a new study, conducted by researcher Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, couples may fight more when they are hungry. Bushman calls the emotion ‘hangry,’ which is a combination of being angry and hungry. When a person or a couple experiences low blood sugar, they become touchy or grumpy, causing more fighting.
The researchers studied 107 married couples during a three-week period. Each night, the couples had their blood sugar glucose level measured, and each person was given a voodoo doll which represented their partner. The researchers asked the participants to stick the voodoo dolls with pins to represent how they felt about their spouse. The level of the participant’s aggression was measured and analyzed. The couples also filled out a 10-item relationship satisfaction scale. The study took three years to complete.
The results showed that people pushed more pins into the voodoo doll if their blood sugar levels were low. People who had the lowest blood sugar levels pushed twice as many pins into the dolls compared to the people who had the highest blood sugar levels. Richard Pond, co-author of the study, said that the study also showed that the couples were not generally angry at each other. Pond says that 70 percent of the time people did not stick the dolls at all, however, three people did put 51 pins in a voodoo doll at once, and one person did that two times.
Bushman explains that people require glucose for self-control and most people have a hard time controlling their anger if they are hungry. Bushman recommends that couples should not talk about touchy issues if they are experiencing hunger, since it may lead to a fight. Bushman recommends eating a candy bar, or even better some fruit and vegetables, before a long conversation. Pond says that eating is linked to behavior because the brain consumes 20 percent of our calories, even though it is only two percent of the body’s weight.
Not everyone agrees with the findings of this study. Chris Beedie, a psychology teacher at Aberystwyth University, finds the study’s method flawed. Beedie thinks that a better way to test couples’ reactions to varying glucose levels, or hunger, would be to give them high glucose on some occasions and lower glucose on other occasions, and then see if it impacts their behavior and aggression. Another psychology teacher, Julie Schumacher, disagrees with Beedie, and supports the study. Schumacher also studies domestic violence at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and she confirms that low glucose levels may contribute to partner violence. However, both Beedie and Schumacher question the effectiveness of using voodoo dolls to gauge actual physical aggression levels.
Hunger, in the form of low blood sugar levels, undermines a person’s self-control and may cause more fights among couples. Bushman insists that when a person experiences low hunger levels, they lack the sufficient energy to overcome unwanted impulses from unexpected fights or challenges. Most people realize that when they are hungry, they get cranky. Since anger is the emotion that most people have problems with, couples should avoid feeling hungry when facing difficult conversations or topics.
Opinion By Sara Petersen
Bloomberg Businessweek News