Sometimes it seems that everyone has abandoned the notion that rational self-interest drives people's decisions. It's high time for some answers to the next obvious question: If Reason doesn't rule the mental roost, then what does govern people's approach to buying, selling, voting, marrying, hiring and other choices? Last month, this study suggested that part of the answer is, simply, food. People who are hungry, it found, make different financial decisions than people who've recently eaten.
Mkael Symmonds, Julian J. Emmanuel and their colleagues had 19 men play a virtual lottery 200 times, each time picking between two choices on a computer screen. As in real life, their chances of winning, say, £20 were much better than their chances of winning £100. Each man played the game once a week for three weeks. Once, he had a nice meal first, and then played right away; another time, he ate and then waited an hour before hitting the computer; and, in the third time, he had to fast for 14 hours before playing.