Want To Be More Empathetic? Skip Lunch.

A new study suggests that people who are hungry are more supportive of social welfare.

Want To Be More Empathetic? Skip Lunch.
[Image via Shutterstock]

Behind every great design is an important human trait: empathy. But how do you train someone to be empathetic? How can you coax out the fundamental viewpoint of caring for your fellow man, especially if you’re having a lousy day yourself?


A new study published in Psychological Science, by Assistant Professor Lene Aarøe from Aaehus University, something interesting: hunger may drive empathy. (And at minimum, it makes us more supportive of social welfare programs.)

Image via Shutterstock

The study asked roughly 100 hungry college students to drink a Sprite. Some consumed the regular version (boosting their blood glucose levels), others consumed the sugar free Sprite Zero (which couldn’t boost glucose levels). What the researchers discovered was, those who’d consumed Sprite Zero were generally more supportive of what the author called “left wing” social welfare.

Now the study did find that the hungry cohort was no more likely to distribute money to their fellow testers than the sated cohort–in other words, the hungry people didn’t necessarily practice what they preached–but researchers believe that may be because the hungry felt the counteractive urge to hoard their resources. They may have, in effect, been empathizing a bit too well with those in need.

Whether these lab results would actually play out in real world action–conversation, voting, etc.–is obviously unclear. But the implication is that a very simple, short-term state can very much affect the way we look at the world. And who would have thought that such core human emotions could be so dramatically swayed by the calories in a regular vs. a diet soda?

Find the study here.

[Hat tip: Eureka Alert]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.