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60-Second Mind

Hunger Affects What We See

When our body needs something, like food, the brain tends to open a fast track for perceiving that specific thing. Christie Nicholson reports

Hunger is the best sauce. And it affects perceptions of anything related to food. Even words.

 

Researchers tested two groups. One group just had lunch. The other hadn't eaten in four hours.

 

The subjects watched computer screens as 80 words flashed by, each for about 1/300th of a second--that's too short to read the words, but just long enough to reach the threshold of conscious awareness. One quarter of the words were food-related. The rest were neutral non-food related words.

 

After each word flashed by, the subjects were slowly shown that word and another word. For example, if the flashed word was bread, the subjects might then be slowly shown the words bread and glove. And they were asked which word had previously flashed by.

 

Hungry subjects were better at recognizing that they'd seen the food-related words than other words, and reported that food words were brighter than the neutral words. The research is in the journal Psychological Science.

 

Highly desirable stimuli seem more likely than other information to find a fast track to our conscious awareness. Which is probably an important ability for evolution to have cobbled into our nervous systems.

 

--Christie Nicholson

 

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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