Have you ever gone grocery shopping before eating and came back with tons of food not on your shopping list? Or been so hungry that you lose your filter when speaking? Well, it may not come as a surprise to you that short-term hunger leads to more impulsive actions, and short-term and long-term hunger can both influence behavior. To understand the relationship between hunger and risk-taking, Nicholas Moran at Bielefeld University led a study compiling and screening papers across multiple animals (insects, amphibians, lizards, birds, and mammals) to determine how hunger affects an animal’s risk-taking behavior.
In the wild, animals risk their lives to get food, drink water, and find shelter. Some animals are willing to risk more (e.g. the possibility of being eaten by predators) to search further or to venture into unknown territory for food. To understand what drives risky behavior in animals, the study examined multiple papers that involved either starving an animal or enriching an animal’s diet to assess changes in their behavior. There are two competing hypotheses on when an animal would risk more: 1) well-fed animals risk more because they are more likely to get away, or 2) starved animals risk more because they gain more out of it. The authors used the data from the papers to run multiple analyses on differences between the starved and well-fed groups to determine which hypothesis is accurate. The authors’ findings supported the second hypothesis: if animals were starved earlier in their lives, they were 26% more likely to take a risk in future situations.
While wild animals act riskier when starved early in life, the effect of early starvation on risk-taking in humans is unclear because the way we face and assess risk is different. For example, buying food is not generally considered a risk for humans. Hence, more research has to be done to determine if this risk-taking behavioral effect occurs in humans or even domesticated animals, but either way, it is clear that hunger affects us in many ways. I mean, I’m pretty reckless myself in grocery stores when hungry!
Nicholas P. Moran is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Technical University of Denmark. He published this study with his previous professor in the Department of Evolutionary Biology at Bielefeld University.
Managing Correspondent: Jenny Zheng
Original paper: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/brv.12655 Biological Reviews
Image Credits: https://pixabay.com/photos/bird-birds-robin-baby-nest-bill-2293104/Pixabay