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Happy snacking: A quick candy bar could prevent major fights between spouses, if a new study involving voodoo dolls is right.

, Associated Press

Getting angry with your spouse? Better get something to eat

  • Article by: Monte Morin
  • Los Angeles Times
  • April 18, 2014 - 4:56 PM

Your normally cheerful spouse has suddenly, and inexplicably, turned cranky, and an otherwise pleasant day is fast becoming a scene from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Sound familiar?

When you see those storm clouds gathering in your significant other’s eyes, you might do well to give them some carbohydrates — and fast.

At least that’s the advice of a team of researchers who examined the connection between low blood-sugar levels and aggression in married couples.

The paper, which was published Monday in PNAS, found that when blood glucose levels dropped, spouses were far more likely to stick pins into voodoo dolls representing their mates. They were also more likely to blast loud noises into earphones strapped to their mate’s head.

“Self-control requires energy, and that energy is provided in part by glucose,” wrote lead study author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

“Glucose is made from nutritious intake that becomes converted into neurotransmitters that provide energy for brain processes. Low glucose levels can undermine self-control because people have insufficient energy to overcome challenges and unwanted impulses,” Bushman and his colleagues wrote.

To test their hypothesis, authors studied 107 married couples.

For three weeks, the spouses’ glucose levels were checked in the morning, before breakfast, and in the evening, before bed.

“To obtain daily measures of aggressive inclinations toward their partner, each participant received a voodoo doll along with 51 pins and was told: ‘This doll represents your spouse. At the end of each day, insert between 0 and 51 pins in the doll, depending how angry you are with your spouse,” the authors wrote.

Then, at the end of 21 days, they played a “game” in the lab that was designed to measure aggressive behavior.

“Participants were told that they would compete with their spouse to see who could press a button faster when a target square turned red on the computer, and that the winner on each trial could blast the loser with loud noise through headphones,” authors wrote.

In reality, the game, and the punishment, were a sham.

Instead of competing against each other, the spouses were playing the computer in a rigged outcome. Because they were seated in separate rooms, they could not tell it was all a ruse.

Nonetheless, lower glucose levels translated to more pins stuck in the doll and longer, more intense noise settings, authors wrote.

“Results suggest that interventions designed to provide individuals with metabolic energy might foster more harmonious couple interactions,” the authors concluded. □

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