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Paper on psychological influence of hunger wins Outstanding Professional Paper award

Paper on psychological influence of hunger wins Outstanding Professional Paper award
Dr. Shelley Aikman's paper on the role of hunger on processing stereotypic information was awarded Outstanding Professional Paper at the 63rd annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association.

Dr. Shelley Aikman, professor of psychological science at the University of North Georgia (UNG), was awarded Outstanding Professional Paper at the 63rd annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association in Atlanta.

Aikman's paper, "The Influences of Hunger on Cognitive Processes," examined the role of hunger on processing stereotypic information: Are individuals quicker to make racist or sexist associations when hungry?

Participants were presented with a social group word prime, such as "white" or "black" or a non-social prime like "day" or "night," then presented with a stereotypic target word like "gentle" or "lazy" or a neutral target word like "purring." Participants had to make a decision about the prime-target pairs; for example, if a participant saw "black" and then "musical," they would need to indicate if they believed the two were related.

Participants were also asked about their social attitudes, such as racism or sexism, and their motivation to control prejudiced reactions. Half the participants completed all tasks after fasting for 12 hours; half completed the tasks immediately after eating.

Aikman found as hunger increased, participants were more motivated to control their prejudiced reactions and became slower to respond when the word pairs reflected racial stereotypes.

"Considering we all experience hunger to varying degrees nearly every day, the potential for hunger to impact how we interact with each other is great and is a topic that needs further exploration," said Aikman, who teaches a Psychology of Eating course.

She was "surprised and honored" to be selected for the award out of the numerous submissions and was appreciative her son was standing next to her when the award was announced.

"The award did not come with a certificate, but my son was so excited that he made one for me," Aikman said.

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