Acute hunger does not always undermine prosociality

Jan A. Häusser*, Christina Stahlecker, Andreas Mojzisch, Johannes Leder, Paul A.M. Van Lange, Nadira S. Faber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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 languageEnglish
Article number4733
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date18 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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