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Hangry? A Full Stomach May Be Key To Marital Harmony

Brad Bushman's study measured couples' anger using voodoo dolls.
Raymond Bryson via Flickr/
Brad Bushman's study measured couples' aggression toward eachother using blood sugar meters and voodoo dolls.

Have you seen the Snickers commercial where Godzilla happily plays ping pong and water-skis with humans....until his stomach starts to growl? Suddenly, Godzilla is crushing cars and breathing fire. Somebody tosses him a Snickers bar, and he's one of the bros again. 

Brad Bushman,  a communications and psychology professor at Ohio State University, would say that Godzilla is "hangry"- a combination of hungry and angry. " The term indicates that hungry people are often very cranky, they're irritable, and they tend to have aggressive impulses," he says. 

Brad Bushman studies emotions and the area of the brain that controls impulsive behavior - the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex needs energy to exercise control over emotions, and it gets that energy from glucose, he says.

To learn more about the connection between anger and glucose, he studied married couples, because "people are often the most aggressive against the people they love the most." Each partner was given a blood glucose meter, a voodoo doll and 51 pins. "Of course we could ask them how angry they are with their spouse, but this provides a quantitative measure," Bushman explains. 

In the morning before breakfast, each participant measured his or her blood sugar. At night, when they were alone, participants were asked to stick the voodoo doll with from one to 51 pins, depending on how angry they felt with their spouses. Then before bed, they took another blood sugar test. 107 couples repeated this routine for 21 days. Some never used the pins, and others used all 51.

Bushman's findings supported the "hangriness theory": individuals whose glucose levels were in the lower 25% of the group stabbed the doll with over twice as many pins as those in the upper 25%. 

"Love is the answer, and you're more likely to be loving towards your spouse if you have a full stomach," Bushman says.  His findingsare published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences