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Hunger and sustainable consumption : which relation? Hungry bellies have no ears ?

Publié le
31 Janvier 2020

While Dry January ends (the stop drinking alcohol throughout the month of January, initiated in England in 2013) which raises the controversy among liquor sellers, and if hunger meanwhile had an influence on our amplitude to consume sustainable? For proof, the article by Robert Mai, Associate Professor to department Marketing, published in 2019.


Robert Mai (PhD, habil.) holds a diploma in industrial engineering and management and a PhD in marketing from the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. In 2015, he finished his habilitation in the field of business administration at CAU Kiel, Germany. He joined Grenoble Ecole de Management in January 2017.
His current research focuses on consumer and (industrial) buyer behavior and, more specifically, on sustainability innovations, health care, and food decision making as well as international management and cross-cultural marketing. In addition, he pursues research in the field of service management and product service systems. His studies have a strong focus on quantitative methods and he also conducts research in the fields of online marketing, communication and interactions.
"Hungry bellies have no ears. How and why hunger inhibits sustainable consumption" in june 2019 published in Ecological Economics, vol. 160, 96-104. With Stefan Hoffmann, Wassili Lasarov, Jan S.Krause  and Ulrich Schmidt


While reports state that consumers are increasingly willing to consume more sustainably, no study has considered how the activation of very basic human needs, such as the state of hunger, affects sustainable food consumption. The authors expect that hungry consumers display a lower preference for sustainable food items and that this hunger-induced imprint on food consumption patterns must be traced back to the fact that the activation of very fundamental human needs contaminates stereotypical perceptions of sustainable products. More importantly, hunger primarily operates spontaneously, as well as automatically, and affects perceptions, which are difficult to control (and which sometimes go unnoticed). A laboratory experiment studied this premise by sampling 166 participants with 18 h of actual food deprivation, half of them having breakfast before and the other half after completing the experimental tasks. The participants who had breakfast show a stronger tendency to choose sustainable products, which can be traced back to implicit gentleness-associations concerning sustainable products in the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Albeit explicitly held beliefs also influence choices, these judgments are not affected by food deprivation. A field study then replicates the findings in a real-life setting.


Human needs, Sustainability, Hunger, Implicit Association Test, Field experiment

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