Never Shop Hungry

A desire for food also comes with a desire to acquire ... anything at all.

Humans are more likely to make purchases when they're hungry, according to behavioral scientists reporting this week on five novel experiments in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found that the hunger-spending phenomenon applies not only in logical cases like grocery shopping or ordering at a restaurant, but to any type of shopping.

"Hunger motivates people to consume food, for which finding and acquiring food is a prerequisite," the researchers write in the journal, simultaneously raining truth and setting up the more salient question at hand: "Are hungry people also more likely to acquire objects that cannot satisfy their hunger?"

It turns out, yes, they are. When people are hungry, they are more likely to pursue even inedible forms of satisfaction—such as, in the case of one experiment, acquiring "binder clips." The researchers have a couple ideas why this happens, hinging on the concept that "hunger renders acquisition-related concepts and behaviors more accessible" in the brain. As writer Tom Jacobs put it in Pacific Standard, "It appears that, when tempted by things to buy, the internal message 'I want food' gets pared down to simply 'I want.'"

"We'd like to make consumers aware of the possibility that if they go shopping on an empty stomach, they might spend more money than they intend to," lead researcher Alison Jing Xu, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, told The New Scientist. "So [they] better feed themselves before they go out."

Or before they don't go out, because everyone buys everything online. So, to save money, never experience hunger. Or do, and use this information to heighten the thrill of self-denial, intentionally cultivating hunger only to stroll through the most lavish grocery store in town, touching nothing, plumbing the depths of what it means to be human. Train yourself to fully comprehend that objects satisfy no hunger, existential or otherwise, and that a person can be easily destroyed by believing that he controls nothing.