How long can we survive hunger?

Hunger and thirst

At the end of our brief overview of motifs, we come to the most important and least important motif: that hunger (always meant: thirst).
Why is it the most important of all motives? Because we cannot survive without his constant satisfaction. We have to eat and drink all our lives. If we don't, we'll die sooner or later, as can be seen from the sad example of people with eating disorders.
Why is it the least important motive? Because there are almost no people in our society who would not be able to satisfy the motive at all times. One can say, pointedly, that there is actually no hunger here. We eat out of habit. We cannot say from our own experience how a person who has not eaten for several days is psychologically influenced.

Now, of course, you shouldn't confuse two things: hunger is a motive in our society, i.e. we all want to eat (some more, some less). What there is little or no is hungerfeeling, that is, the prolonged experience of a deficiency state, as it is perhaps more familiar to us with the sexual motif (even if it is not so strongly conscious here either). What we are very familiar with in Western societies, on the other hand, is a specific need to eat, a "hunger for ...". Can "hunger" and "hunger for" be lumped together at all?
But what exactly do we mean by "hunger" as a motive? Is hunger the motive to end the feeling of hunger or is it the motive to eat something? The two need not coincide, especially not in our affluent society. In the following we will deal more with the second, the "eating motif".

Regardless of this distinction, there is always hunger high evolutionary adaptabilitybecause it maintains the metabolism. If we were not incited by an incessant "urge to eat", we would starve. This has been demonstrated impressively - albeit cruelly - in experiments with cats. After manipulating certain areas of the brain, the cat ate Nothing more and died. Humans, on the other hand, could admittedly simply eat "out of reason", i.e. without being hungry. For example, on the advice of a doctor, many older people nowadays drink large amounts of water every day, even though they are anything but thirsty.

Hunger is a motivational system that is very closely related physical signals is bound. We eat when we perceive certain physical stimuli, especially in the area of ​​the oral cavity, stomach, intestines and liver. Visual and olfactory perception, i.e. seeing and smelling food, also serve as an additional "stimulator" of hunger.
These physical and sensory cues not only act as a start sign to eat, but also as a stop sign: not only an empty, but also a full belly is reported; and the smell of chocolate incites my hunger before I eat the 300g bar, but afterwards it rather evokes resistance, even disgust.

Taste preferences

Are our taste preferences innate or learned? As is so often the case, the answer is a clear both-and-also. Newborns show a clear preference for sweet tastes and an aversion to salty, sour and bitter foods. The preference for sweet things can be explained evolutionarily, since sugar is an important source of energy and not toxic. The aversion to bitter things also makes biological sense, since many poisons taste bitter.
One has to realize here that something bitter is not bitter "in itself", but that we only perceive it that way. Therefore it is not "logical" that we do not like bitter foods. It could be different!

Why don't we all have the same taste preferences? This depends on learning processes. Nature has made our preference system flexible, so to speak, within certain limits. Preferences and aversions develop between the ages of 6 and 12. As far as aversions are concerned, the mechanisms of learning theory are probably familiar to everyone from everyday life: what is once not received, one does not eat again; especially if the consequences are very unpleasant (vomiting, etc.).
Behavioral advice in this case is: Eat the same thing the next day, until the body has got used to it. (Of course, this advice is not appropriate for alcoholic beverages!)

And what about the emergence of (special) preferences? A study by Diehl from 1991 showed that preferences arise primarily from habit. In other words: What has always been presented to you, you also like (mostly). In contradiction to this, however, it was found that the agreement in the preferences of mother and child is rather poor; at least less than those in the aversions.

Eating disorder

Before going directly into eating disorders, it is helpful to consider a study that looked at the psychological consequences of permanent dietary restriction. Keys and his colleagues asked 36 conscientious objectors in 1950 to voluntarily consume half the calories they normally consume for six months, that is, to starve. They were, so to speak, induced an eating disorder. The participants not only lost a quarter of their weight, but also complained of difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, loss of sexual interest and depression, and post-hunger cravings.

This gives an indication of what happens to people who - for biological or psychological reasons - refuse to eat. Clinical psychologists call such people "anorectic". This eating disorder (full name: anorexia nervosa) is becoming more and more common, especially among girls and young women. This indicates that anorexia is primarily caused by cultural influences (read: ideal of beauty), which seems plausible in view of the media overload with slim pop stars.
Similar to bulimia: Here, however, periods of fasting alternate with eating attacks, after which the person gets rid of what they have eaten by vomiting or laxatives.
The disorder of people who eat too much or too irregularly is referred to by names such as obesity or obesity. To explain the details here would go beyond the scope.


Now of course there is a lot more to say, for example about the physiology of hunger and thirst. Since these topics cannot be dealt with without going into depth, reference is only made here to e.g. the textbook by Birbaumer & Schmidt (1999).
In addition, the same applies to hunger as to sexuality: Due to the strong biological components, motivational psychology largely leaves these fields to biologists and medical professionals. Psychology contributes something to the progress of knowledge here and there rather than being able to present sophisticated theories, as we have seen (suffered?) For example with the achievement motive. This is how the reader may have explained the rather lax narrative style of the last sections.
It is also no wonder that the last few sections are on the short side. On the one hand, they were no longer so important in terms of content. But on the other hand, this can also be explained by Miller's conflict model: Shortly before the goal, the urge to the goal increases ...

Schneider & Schmalt (2000), Chapter 4
Birbaumer & Schmidt (1999), pp. 607-613

How should it go on?
- You could take a quick test now.
- You could go over the chapter again from the beginning.
- You could look at the table of contents.