The NYT writes about a study today that suggests (the sample was only 20 people) metabolic factors affect decision-making–in short, hungry people take bigger risks. As one person pointed out in the comments, it seems to make evolutionary sense. If you’re full, no need to chase after that scary woolly mammoth or hike into unknown territory. If you’re hungry, it might seem worthwhile.
I was intrigued that the Times chose to frame their discussion of the findings in terms of wealthy finance-industry players, writing, “Maybe what Wall Street’s risk-loving bankers really need is a better diet.” They even had a picture of a fat cat!
Really, New York Times? Exactly how hungry do you think people on Wall Street are? I’m guessing: Not at all. Is there any evidence at all that rich folks are hungry, other than maybe those on diets? The Times is all hahah, maybe we can blame the financial meltdown on this! It’s so telling to me that they didn’t think that perhaps hunger made the victims of Wall Street more vulnerable to the hucksterism and shady dealings of sub-prime predators.
The study itself used purchasing lottery tickets as its measure of risk-taking behavior. The subjects who were hungry chose riskier odds. Hmm, who plays the lottery in real life? It is disproportionately people with lower incomes. A Carnegie-Mellon study found that (surprise), those with fewer resources are more desperate for changes in their circumstances and find the concept of a lottery appealing, because, in theory, anyone can win.
We know the brain needs food. That’s why school lunch programs and making sure children eat breakfast are so important. That’s why we support NYC’s free meal program for children under 18. That’s why we were dismayed to read today that so many states and municipalities are cutting such programs, especially during a time of economic crisis. Because we are a lot more worried about kids going hungry than we are about bankers missing a meal.