Don’t get hangry: feed your brain healthy food | Brad Bushman | TEDxColumbus

Don’t get hangry: feed your brain healthy food | Brad Bushman | TEDxColumbus

Translator: Ruth Milligan
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs Hello. It’s a great honor
to give this talk today. How many of you
would like to be successful in life? Raise your hand. Alright? Well actually, the two most important
keys to success in life are: intelligence, and self control. Guess which one you can do the most about. (Laughter) Self control, right? There are pills to cure
just about everything, but unfortunately, there are no pills
to cure low levels of intelligence. (Laughter) My talk is going to focus on self-control. In the 1960s and 70s,
a Stanford psychologist developed an ingenious way
to measure self-control in children. He put a marshmallow
in front of them, and told the kids, “You can eat it now if you want, but if you wait until I come back,
you can have two marshmallows.” He tested hundreds of kids, and then did follow-up tests
on them decades later. And what he found is that kids
who waited for two marshmallows, were much more successful in life. They had higher standardized test scores, they were more likely
to graduate from college, they had happier marriages, lower divorce rates, lower obesity rates. The kids who ate one marshmallow
immediately, they all went to jail. (Laughter) Just kidding, just kidding. They didn’t go to jail. But in one of these studies, the researchers found that the kids
who waited for two marshmallows, had more activity
in the pre-frontal cortex. That’s the part of your brain in charge of, thinking, reasoning,
and emotional control. Psychologists call these
‘executive functions.’ So poor self-control is actually
responsible for many problems in life, and many of these are preventable, such as health problems, eating unhealthy food,
not wanting to exercise, addictions to the internet or alcohol,
tobacco, just to name a few. [off the TODAY’S SPECIAL
AND TOPPED WITH A CIGARETTE…] (Laughter) People also have trouble
controlling their finances. Some people spend
more money than they make. Sometimes governments do this too. (Laughter) Some people have trouble
controlling their sexual desires, including some politicians. (Laughter) And this can lead
to very difficult consequences. And people also have trouble
controlling their anger. Indeed, anger is the emotion people
have the most difficulty controlling. (Laughter) And sometimes anger
can even lead to criminal behavior. For example, by far the greatest
cause of murder is anger. (Laughter) Really! (Laughter) No other cause even comes close,
like drugs, nothing even comes close. Anger is the leading cause of murder. So speaking of criminal behavior, two criminologists wrote
a very influential book called A General Theory of Crime. What a brazen title! What general factor could cause all crime? Is it bad parenting? Bad genes? Substance abuse? Poverty? Frustration? No, actually, the best predictor
of criminal behavior, especially violent criminal behavior, is poor self-control. So, for over 25 years, I’ve spent
my career studying human aggression. And aggression often starts
when self-control stops. What I’d like to do today is tell you about a few studies
that we’ve conducted on the link between
low self-control and aggression, but before I do, I want to tell you
a little bit more about the brain, because, the brain plays
such a critical role in self-control. The human brain’s
about the size of a grapefruit. And although it’s only about
two percent of our body weight, it uses 20-30 percent
of the calories we consume. The brain is a very demanding organ. Calories provide fuel for the brain
that it uses for many functions, including those executive functions
I talked about earlier: thinking, reasoning,
and emotional control. Also recall, that the emotion people have the most
difficulty controlling is anger. Now food… gives us calories. I don’t know if you’ve
noticed this or not, but sometimes when people
don’t get enough food to eat, they have trouble controlling their anger. Hungry people tend to be cranky,
irritable, angry. How many of you know
what I’m talking about? (Laughter) I thought so. There’s actually a term
to describe this; it’s called ‘hangry.’ (Laughter) Hungry plus angry. Hangry. Now we actually did
the first experimental study to test whether hangry is a real thing. I’d like to point out,
it’s really important that we use science to test what ideas
are true and which ones are false, rather than relying on hunches,
intuitions, gut feelings, common sense, instincts, because those can differ dramatically,
for different people, and they can often lead us astray. So I’d like to tell you about
our experimental study on hangry. Participants were college students. They fasted for food and water for three hours
before they came into our lab. That’s a very long time
for college students. (Laughter) First, they participated in what
they thought was a taste test study, and we randomly assigned them
to drink lemonade that was either sweetened with sugar, which has calories
and therefore provides fuel for the brain, or the lemonade was sweetened
with Splenda, a sugar substitute, with no calories,
and hence, no fuel for the brain. In a blind test task,
people can’t tell the difference between the lemonade
sweetened with sugar, and the lemonade
sweetened with Splenda. Then we had to measure aggression. Well, this is kind of tricky, right? Because researchers can’t just
give participants guns and knifes and see what they do with them. (Laughter) So researchers have to come up
with safer ways to measure aggression. Now, aggression is any behavior
intended to harm another person who wants to avoid that harm. And in this study,
and in the studies I’ll tell you after, we used a noise blast procedure, that I developed
for my doctoral dissertation. So let me tell you about
this noise blast procedure. In this procedure, participants compete
with an ostensible opponent, to see who can press
a mouse button faster, when a target square turns red. The winner gets to blast the loser
with loud noise through headphones. (Laughter) The noise levels range
from level 0 to level 10. We included 0 because we didn’t want
to force people to behave aggressively. If they don’t want to behave aggressively,
they don’t have to, they can just choose 0. Level 1 is 60 decibels,
2 is 65, 3 is 70, 4 is 75, all the way up to level 10,
which is 105 decibels. That’s about the same volume
as a fire alarm going off directly into your ears
through headphones. (Laughter) The winner also gets to control
how long the loser suffers (Laughter) by setting the noise duration,
from 0 seconds to 5 seconds. Now, the noise is a combination
of noises that many people really hate, like fingernails scratching
on chalkboards, dentist drills, blow horns, sirens. And they do this task 25 times, so we can get a more reliable
measure of aggression. So I know you’re dying to hear this noise, so actually, I have a sound level meter, so I can tell you
how many decibels this is. Okay, so here you go. (Screeching noise) (Noise ends) Do you want to hear it again? (Audience) No! 93 decibels. 93! It goes up to 105. So, we told participants that the study was about the effects of different kind
of foods on a reaction time, but it was not. The study was about the effects
of glucose on aggression. And we explained this to participants
after the study was over. So here are the results for participants who drank the lemonade
sweetened with sugar, and those who drank the lemonade
sweetened with Splenda. Those who drank the lemonade with Splenda were significantly
more hangry and aggressive. Why? Because the Splenda
has no calories for the brain. Well, we wanted to replicate
this study; scientists like to do that. We also wanted to see
if the effects generalize, because after all,
this was a laboratory experiment. It was conducted in an artificial
setting – psychological laboratory. Study lasted less than an hour. And the participants were college students
who aggressed against a complete stranger. So, we conducted a field experiment
as a follow up study. In this field experiment, participants
conducted the study in their own home, a natural setting. Study lasted 23 days,
rather than less than an hour. And the participants were actually
married couples, (Laughter) who aggressed against their spouse. (Laughter) So, we had 107 married couples. They’d been married
about an average of 12 years, and on Day 1,
we brought them in our lab, we gave them a standardized measure
of marital satisfaction. We wanted to control for this, because couples who were satisfied
with their marriage, may be less angry and aggressive
with their spouses than those who are not. We also gave them a blood glucose
meter; we showed them how to use it. We sent them home with it,
and for the next 21 days they measured their blood glucose levels
every morning before they ate breakfast, and every evening,
before they went to bed. We also gave each person, (Laughter) a Voodoo doll, along with 51 pins. We told them that this doll
represented their spouse. (Laughter) Every night before they went to bed, they stabbed between 0-51 pins
into the doll, (Laughter) depending on how angry they were
with their spouse that day. They did this alone
with their spouse not being present. (Laughter) And we actually developed this
Voodoo doll task, and we validated it in several studies
involving couples. We like it a lot because
it’s an objective measure, you can count the number of pins
between 0 and 51. It doesn’t use self-reports. And it also takes some effort
to put the pins in the doll. One participant stabbed all 51 pins
in the doll on one of the days. Actually, on two of the days. (Laughter) Man, I’m glad I’m not
married to that person. (Laughter) So, I bought 250 of these dolls;
they’re $20 each. One day I got a call
from my credit card company. (Laughter) They said, “Did you really spend
$5,000 on Voodoo dolls?” (Laughter) I said, “Yeah, I did; I’m a scientist, and I’m doing a study
that involves over 200 participants, and each of them gets a Voodoo doll. And they said, “Really?” (Laughter) I said, “Yeah, really!” They said, “Okay. It seemed like
a suspicious charge to us. (Laughter) We never saw anybody spend
$5,000 on Voodoo dolls before.” So on Day 23,
we brought them back in the lab, and they did the noise blast task
that I described earlier. Did you want to hear that noise again? (Audience) No. Okay, I didn’t think so. But this time, their partner
was their spouse rather than a stranger. And here are the results. First, the number of pins
stabbed in the Voodoo dolls. Participants with high levels of glucose,
a standard deviation above the mean, and those with low levels of glucose. (Laughter) One standard deviation below the mean. Those with low levels of glucose
were much more hangry at their spouse, and they stabbed almost three times
more pins in the Voodoo doll than those with high levels of glucose. Next, the noise blast. Participants were nicer to their spouse
than college students were to strangers. Those with high levels of glucose, and those with low levels of glucose. But those with low levels of glucose, were once again more hangry
and aggressive with their spouse, than those with high levels of glucose, because they had less energy
for their brain to exercise control over angry feelings
and aggressive impulses. Also we found the number of pins
participants stabbed in the doll was directly correlated
with the intensity and duration of noise blast they gave their partner, which adds some validity
to our Voodoo dolls measure. So, the take home message from this study is don’t talk about anything important
with your spouse on an empty stomach! Don’t do it! Right? Instead, you should talk
about it over dinner, or better yet, after dinner, after your glucose levels
have had a chance to increase. So we’ve shown that hangry people are more aggressive
against complete strangers, in our laboratory experiment
involving college students, and hangry people are also
more aggressive against loved ones using our field experiment
involving married couples. So it’s really important
that we feed our brain, our brain needs fuel
to engage these executive functions, including controlling angry feelings
and aggressive impulses. Now I am not advocating
that we feed our brain with junk food. Right? Although sugary foods
cause a quick spike in glucose, you get a decrease just as quickly, right? And also we know
that sugary foods lead to diabetes. And we’ve done other research showing
that people with diabetic symptoms tend to be more aggressive
than those without. So I’m not advocating this. Rather, I’m advocating
that we feed our brain with healthy foods, such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains, that will keep our glucose levels higher
for a longer period of time and at a more stable level. In my office, I have a drawer
full of protein bars so I don’t get hangry
with my colleagues and students. So everybody knows that muscles
can be strengthened with exercise. But what many people do not know
is that self-control can also be strengthened
with exercise, just like a muscle. So here’s some self-control exercises.
You can try these at home! Work on your posture. Use your non-dominant hand
for mundane tasks like stirring soups, or opening doorknobs,
or brushing your teeth, or drinking beverages. Speak in complete sentences. (Laughter) It’s a tough one, huh? (Laughter) Keep track of what you eat. My colleagues actually
did a really cool study in which they randomly assigned
participants, college students, to do these self-control exercises,
for just two weeks, every morning between 8 am – 6 pm. Participants in the control group
did not do the exercises. Then they gave them a standardized
measure of aggressiveness. It has items like: “Once in a while I can’t control my urge
to strike another person.” (Laughter) “If I have to resort to violence
to protect my rights, I will.” Then after two weeks, they came in the lab and they did the noise blast task
that I described earlier. Don’t worry, I won’t give you
those noise blasts. And here are the results. As you can see, those in the control group,
the more aggressive they were, the louder and longer noise blast
they gave their partner. But check this out, after just two weeks,
those in the self-control exercise group were significantly less aggressive
than those in the control group. So in conclusion, control your anger
and you will live long and prosper. Like I said at the beginning,
the two keys to success in life are intelligence, and self-control. And although it’s difficult
to raise your intelligence, you can increase your self-control
by engaging in the exercises I described, and by not being hangry. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Don’t get hangry: feed your brain healthy food | Brad Bushman | TEDxColumbus

  1. are you fucking kidding me. people think it's a joke to feel bad that's the problem people don't improve people stare at bad stuff because our brains are addicted to what is bad on television to protect ourselves. if your eating and a lion enters the room you will stop being happy and become scared then mad if your trapped and don't have a choice

  2. Success often starts when stupidity stops. Idiocy starts when public money is given to people who have to produce noting but crap, (like this).

  3. Yeah, there's this thing, it does work. You get the option to do it when you turn 10 or 13 or so. It's called self-parenting. Gotta learn how, but many don't, cause it's easier to be a tall infant, which is the default state.

  4. "The leading cause of murder is anger"..!?!? Sorry, but that is bullshit.. It's clear that it's NEVER just a single cause, but a multitude of factors which create an overwhelming sense of anger and rage.. Where the murderer, in most cases, feels they have no choice.. Everyone get's "angry" at times, but the vast majority are not murderers.. So obviously there are numerous factors which affect the level and control of anger, or lack of..

    Then to blame poor self control when it's CLEARLY bad parenting that sets the tone, so to speak, along with the substance abuse, poverty, numerous other reasons not mentioned, are the ROOT CAUSES for the lack of self control.

    Mistakes all over in this theory.. It is implied that EVERYONE has a certain amount or set amount of "self control", which is bullshit.. Obviously, that isn't the case.. To try and conclude that violence in modern day society is caused by people being "hangry" or simply lacking glucose in the brain is comical.. The experiment described involving college students is also comical.. Stabbing pins into a doll and subjecting another person to a noise blast is nothing compared to actual lack of control and violence and murder..

    To be fair, the food that is consumed DOES regulate your mood, whether good or bad, and is the difference between being happy, healthy and vibrant, and feeling anxiety and depression.. But to ignore every other factor which are the root causes of violence and murder is comical.. Trauma and abuse suffered during childhood is a major factor contributing to violence and murder.. And that is just a generalisation of numerous factors which are the root causes of violence and murder..

    Maybe what should be talked about is one's lack of self control which result in self destructive habits like smoking and drinking, drug use, eating too much junk food, fast food, soda, spending too much money going into debt, spending too much on lottery tickets.. etc..

  5. No the problem here is that splenda is composed mainly of dextrose and maltodextrin, which is just fancy way of saying glucose – the reason it appears to have 0 calories (it has 4 per gram) is that any product under 5 calories is allowed to state that it has 0 calories, which makes this controlled trial completely pointless….. unfortunately.

  6. except this study is skewed because it measures glucose. someone who eats a diet that induces ketosis would not have this same "hangry" issue. In fact, much of the time spent between eating if you are in ketosis actually positively effects your mood.

    People get cranky when they eat a carbohydrate based diet if their brain doesn't get its sugar fix. But I do imagine that people would get hangry anyway… even if the brain's fuel were ketones

  7. I totally agree with the part about self control being the root cause of most societal ills. I think that this is the key take home message, which is that: if every individual could put effort toward exercising moderation and mastering self control, self restraint, self discipline then (I believe) this would do more toward making the world the most awesome version of itself than any other factor!
    If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at your life and make the change.

  8. So the moral of the story is eat more sugars? Dang, 3 days of eating protein bars & I already have diabetes (from the high fructose corn syrup).

  9. the government spends more money than it makes? the US government can make as much money as it wants.

  10. This is going to sound controversial, but it's not intended to be. Would this explain the increase of terror attacks during the month of Ramadan?

  11. Brad J. Bushman is an ideological fool. Read into his aggression research and you will see why. His research is filled with references to his own research. The fact that he is taken seriously as a psychologist highlights problems with psychology as a whole. I didn't watch this video I just have been reading his research and needed to get this out somewhere it might be seen.

  12. It would have been interesting to include subjects who are low sugar and low carb – because most people are dependent on eating high levels of glucose and react much like drug addicts when sugar is taken away.

  13. You guys are missing the point..The professor Is saying what contributes to ypur bad reaction when angry for whatever reason is due to lack of calories and thus not thinking logically and get consumed by the feeling of anger…So listen to him and stop making useless points jst for the sake of saying something 😒

  14. This would help but……..

    What if a person is demon possessed? Do you think vitamins & food are going to STOP them?

  15. I used to get hangry so often, I believed that I had an anger issue. Once I began keto (other than the first week with ketoflu) I have never been hangry again. Now that I intermittent fast on keto as well, I sometimes forget about others being hangry so when co-workers or those around me mistreat me or are short with me for no apparent reason and then run and eat something shortly after I truly see the effects of glucose on the brain and emotions.

  16. First of all, the results of the two groups, (on some slides), showed only a slight differential. Is it statistically significant? Also, the correlation between aggression and self-control seems to be presented a bit too simplistic. Anyway, it is a reference.

  17. This guy's picture shows two girls one is reaching for it and the other one is eating it, however the two boys are not, one even has developed a strategy (looking away) not to eat it. All the subliminal massages this conniving guy trying to shove down my throat about cognitive superiority of one gender over the other without saying a word. That's why a psychologist or a socialist should never touch science. Because they have no idea about the very science they claim they have mastered. no matter how many times they call themselves scientists, it doesn't make them one.

  18. I participated in a couple of psych experiments. Here's what I learned : never trust what they tell you before the experiment starts.


  20. Good Talk. And I like the hypothesis. But from a scientific point of view I wish there could be less correlation and more causation…

  21. Great presentation with lot of humor and laughers. Very creative way of testing people's stress and aggression level. Myself do intermittent fasting. I notice in the beginning of hangry, we do become easy to get upset and angry. But if you let the fasting continue in to 24 hours or 48 hours, the opposite begin to happen. When our digestion completely shut down and our body switching the fuel from glucose to ketone. Our brain go into a special super mode with super alertness and our IQ increase. Those intense alertness are design to make us survive in extreme condition. I hope to do some test during those super alert mode. I believe we become more compassion, and tolerance during those state of consciousness. I experience it first hand.

  22. I often had hypoglycemia in the past and can verify that it greatly affects my mood and my brain. My hypoglycemia is almost gone now that I am mostly on a whole foods plant-based diet/WFPB. I also gave up all caffeine, which helps, too.

  23. Great work! Interesting! Consider a similar study across cultures to validate. Minus the voodoo doll because that will cause problems. Develop another way to project "anger" on the spouse. I predict that Asian cultures would not be as Hangry on your scale since they don't eat lots of Empty carbs like the Standard American Diet (SAD) folks. Not to demean Americans, but their diet sucks for the most part and this is a result of the food and healthcare industry maintaining the status quo in the US at the present time. There's talk that this could change dramatically in the next ten years as the system might collapse and may only be saved by preventive and curative medicine currently being used in other cultures. Other cultures are well practiced to reverse type two diabetes through time restricted eating, fasting, and a proper nutritious diet. 2/3rds of Americans are obese and about 60% of them will develop diabetes which will be a tremendous cost on the US economy competing with Defense and other obligations. Thank You!

  24. I am glad he addressed feeding the brain with healthy food instead of sugar. I spent the majority of this talk thinking the results were probably a result of the temporary sugar high people experience. But improving anger through sugar intake is not sustainable. I think a similar study that involves calorie restriction might be interesting. One group that can eat all they want, the other with a calorie limit and neither group is allowed to eat sugary + processed foods.

  25. I have tinnitus. Id like to meet thjs researcher and show him what REAL aggresion is! WHAT A COMPLETELY UNETHICAL test it is to harm a persons fuckjng hearing!

  26. the marshmello test has recently been disproved. It has more to do with if kids were poor or middle class.

  27. Sure enough, establishment nutritional propaganda, 16;00 – fruits, veggies and whole grains (healthy foods, it is assumed) to keep those glucose levels up (and that insulin belly nice and round and big).

  28. Omg! This guy is hands down the best speaker I’ve seen in a long time and I only watch lectures. Never laughed so much in my life while learning at the same time! Needed that! Thx 🙂

  29. Amazing how people in audiences think they have to laugh hysterically throughout presentations, even when things aren't funny!

  30. Also we now know the marshmallow test is deeply flawed. Children from higher socioeconomic homes can wait longer because they have more resources and their parents can provide more for them.

  31. I was waiting for the grand finale where he comes clean about this ted talk being a social experiment in disguise. Maybe they are analyzing the likes/dislikes and comment data to see the percentage of people who buy into such flawed science. It was comical nonetheless.

  32. Wow!!!!…. One of the finest talks… Very informative… Presented in a very beautiful way…….. Thank you so much….. Loved it.

  33. Good now I can say ''hey if you don't like my behaviour its because you didt feed me, youre the only one guilty here'''' joke, good talk and nice to know love to see a followup on other things than anger or other, he probably has much more to say

  34. As all humans, no scientist knows everything! Wheat, and most likely all other grains and grain like seeds, cut blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain so recommending to eat whole grains doesn't help! Gluten and other grain proteins are extremely damaging to the brain and gut! Humans can't digest them. Be well !

  35. The fact that "an hungry brain is a violent brain" was discovered in Oxford in 2002 and 2007 by researchers used men in jail: 2 groups one with placebo one with vitamins & minerals daily.
    After 6 weeks men in the second group had not been fichtjing while with placebo had demolished furniture as usual!

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