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It has been argued that, when they are acutely hungry, people act in self-protective ways by keeping resources to themselves rather than sharing them. In four studies, using experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational designs (total N = 795), we examine the effects of acute hunger on prosociality in a wide variety of non-interdependent tasks (e.g. dictator game) and interdependent tasks (e.g. public goods games). While our procedures successfully increase subjective hunger and decrease blood glucose, we do not find significant effects of hunger on prosociality. This is true for both decisions incentivized with money and with food. Meta-analysis across all tasks reveals a very small effect of hunger on prosociality in non-interdependent tasks (d = 0.108), and a non-significant effect in interdependent tasks (d = -0.076). In study five (N = 197), we show that, in stark contrast to our empirical findings, people hold strong lay theories that hunger undermines prosociality.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Behavior Observation Techniques, Blood Glucose, Choice Behavior, Cooperative Behavior, Female, Games, Experimental, Humans, Hunger, Male, Motivation, Random Allocation, Reward, Social Behavior, Social Welfare, Young Adult