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Psychol Sci. 2013 Dec;24(12):2550-6. doi: 10.1177/0956797613495244. Epub 2013 Oct 30.

Hunger games: fluctuations in blood glucose levels influence support for social welfare.

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Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University.


Social-welfare policies are a modern instantiation of a phenomenon that has pervaded human evolutionary history: resource sharing. Ancestrally, food was a key shared resource in situations of temporary hunger. If evolved human psychology continues to shape how individuals think about current, evolutionarily novel conditions, this invites the prediction that attitudes regarding welfare politics are influenced by short-term fluctuations in hunger. Using blood glucose levels as a physiological indicator of hunger, we tested this prediction in a study in which participants were randomly assigned to conditions in which they consumed soft drinks containing either carbohydrates or an artificial sweetener. Analyses showed that participants with experimentally induced low blood glucose levels expressed stronger support for social welfare. Using an incentivized measure of actual sharing behavior (the dictator game), we further demonstrated that this increased support for social welfare does not translate into genuinely increased sharing motivations. Rather, we suggest that it is "cheap talk" aimed at increasing the sharing efforts of other individuals.


dictator game; evolutionary psychology; hunger; political attitudes; social cognition; social welfare

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