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Hunger Motivation

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Hunger Motivation

What do you do when you’re hungry? You eat! This concept is not rocket science; however, scientists have taken decades to find an exact explanation for why we, as humans, feel hungry. People eat out on dates, on holidays, and simply to feel closer to one another. There are multi-million dollar businesses founded on the impetus of eating. Something this important to the human experience must be studied, and this explanation will help you digest information regarding the definition of hunger motivation, the psychological theories, and the role biological mechanisms play in hunger.

Hunger Motivation, a child eating a piece of watermelon, StudySmarterEating, pexels.com.

  • What is hunger motivation?
  • What is hunger motivation theory?
  • How is hunger motivation caused?

Hunger Motivation in Psychology

Before understanding the many theories and explanations regarding the motivation behind hunger, we must empirically define and operationalize the relevant terminology.

Definition of Hunger Motivation

Hunger itself can have multiple scientific definitions depending on how a study intends to measure and observe the presence of hunger.

The medical dictionary provides a basic definition explaining that hunger is simply the desire or need to consume food.

Motivation is defined by the American Psychological Association (2007) as the force that gives direction and purpose to an individual's behaviour regardless of their own awareness.

The topic of motivation is a widely researched concept with several valid theories. Hunger and motivation are some of the most crucial correlational factors within these studies and provide both biological and psychological perspectives.

Hunger Motivation Theory

There is no one explanation or theory for motivation and hunger. Many early psychologists and scientific studies suggest that hunger motivation is solely a biological and physiological process. However, since these theories were founded, there have been many contradictory factors involving the motivations behind hunger.

Many ideas surrounding the late hunger motivation theory beg the question - is hunger an internal or external motivation?

A case for both explanations can be made. Some theories of motivation support hunger as a biological occurrence which would be an example of internal motivation.

One hunger motivation example supporting the biological perspective is the local theory of hunger and stomach contraction theory (Cannon & Washburn 1995). This theory is founded on the idea that hunger comes from the biological process of stomach contractions that signal to the brain when we are hungry.

Psychologist Al Washburn tested his stomach contraction theory by inflating a balloon-type material in his stomach. When the balloon had become fully inflated, he reported this diminished his feeling of hunger (Hara 1997). This proved his theory that internal motivation uses biological signals of hunger by stomach contractions.

Hunger Motivation, an icon of a woman feeling extreme hunger, StudySmarterStomach, flaticon.com.

Causes of Hunger Motivation

Early biological explanations for the motivation of hunger also included drops in glucose levels or even a decrease in fatty acids resulting in hunger signals. Over time, these theories have been proven insufficient as the main motivators of hunger.

While they make sense in terms of the biological and primary physiological needs of humans, they cannot account for several other external motivators behind feeling hungry.

External Causes of Hunger Motivation and examples

A few of the main causes of hunger motivation include external factors. These are akin to psychological theories of hunger.

Often, people find themselves eating even when they are not hungry. This is precisely what contradicts the previously mentioned biological drive theories. If the only motivator to eat is to reduce feelings of hunger, then why do so many admit to eating despite the lack of hunger?

Incentive and Arousal Theories

General theories that may account for the external motivation of hunger are incentive and arousal.

Incentive theory (1940) states that motivation can stem from external stimuli that provide reinforcement for behavior. When applying this theory to hunger motivation the act of eating must be reinforced by some sort of external motivator or stimulus as an incentive to continue the behavior.

Hunger Motivation, an icon of a person thinking about food, StudySmarterHunger, flaticon.com.

One example of hunger motivation based on incentive theory can be seen in bodybuilders. Usually, people who want to maintain or gain weight will eat in a calorie surplus. The motivator in this situation is the external desire to achieve a certain physique or weight goal. This reinforcer causes the individual to increase the behavior of eating thus supporting the incentive-based theory.

Arousal theory (1908) was founded on the idea that motivation comes from the desire to reach a level of sensation. Of course, this would make sense in the motivation for hunger due to our natural willingness to satiate taste receptors.

Think about how good it feels to indulge in a big slice of chocolate cake, a juicy steak, or a bag of salty fries. You may enjoy eating these not just because you are hungry, but because it is pleasurable.

It is no secret that eating can produce feelings of pleasure and there is an abundance of psychological studies to support this. One study explores the brain’s pleasure cycle in relation to eating and concludes that the cycle “links pleasure with the cyclical changes in hunger levels related to the initiation and termination of meals” (Kringelbach, 2015).

Studies like this support the external motivation of hunger as well as the implications behind theories of the biological processes of hunger motivation.

Hunger Motivation - Key takeaways

  • Hunger is the desire or the need to consume food.
  • Motivation is the force that gives direction and purpose to the behavior of an individual.
  • Hunger motivation is not solely a biological and physiological process.
  • Internal biological theories cannot account for several other external motivators.
  • General theories that may account for external motivation of hunger are incentive theory and arousal theory.
    • Incentive theory states the act of eating must be reinforced by some sort of external motivator.
    • Arousal theory supports the idea that motivation comes from the desire to reach a level of sensation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hunger Motivation

Hunger motivation in psychology is the motivation or drive that causes the feeling of hunger, whether it is an internal physiological or external process.

Motivation on a physiological basis.

Both internal and external psychological factors influence hunger motivation.

Many theorists believed that hunger was solely an internal motivation; however, there are also many external factors of motivation as well.

Both the hypothalamus and the amygdala motivate hunger.

Final Hunger Motivation Quiz

Question

Hunger motivation is solely a biological and physiological process. True or False?

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Answer

False.

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Question

Is hunger motivation internal or external?

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Answer

Both

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Question

Describe the stomach contraction theory.

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Answer

 hunger comes from the biological process of stomach contractions that signal to the brain when we are hungry. 

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Question

 Al Washburn tested his stomach contraction theory by inflating a balloon-type material in his stomach. True or False?


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Answer

True

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Question

What are the causes of hunger motivation?

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Answer

internal and external theories of motivation

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Question

Describe incentive theory of hunger

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Answer

the act of eating must be reinforced by some sort of external motivator

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Describe arousal theory of hunger

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Answer

motivation comes from the desire to reach a level of sensation

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Basic definition of hunger

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the desire or need to consume food

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APA defines motivation as 

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the force that gives direction and purpose to the behavior

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Question

Some theories of motivation support hunger as a biological occurrence which would be an example of...



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Answer

Internal motivation

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Humans are motivated to eat through glucose receptors in the stomach. This is an example of...

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Answer

a biological internal motivation

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Question

I at a large piece of carrot cake after a bad day to feel better. This is an example of what theory?

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Answer

arousal theory

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A child eats their vegetables to receive praise from their parent. What theory is this an example of?

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Answer

Incentive theory

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Hunger is based on external motivation only. True or False?

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Answer

False.

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I eat balanced meals to get in better shape. What theory is this an example of?

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Answer

Incentive theory

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Question

True or False? There is no one explanation for motivation and hunger. 

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Answer

True

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Question

Your stomach is growling. You forgot to eat breakfast and you forgot your lunch. According to the stomach contraction theory, what is signaling to you that you are hungry?

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Answer

Stomach contractions causing your stomach to growl send a signal to your brain. 

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