Evaluating Eve: Visceral States Influence the Evaluation of Impulsive Behavior

Loran F. Nordgren*, Joop van der Pligt, Frenk van Harreveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Impulsive behavior is a common source of stigma. The authors argue that people often stigmatize impulsive behavior because they fail to appreciate the influence visceral impulses have on behavior. Because people tend to underestimate the motivational force of cravings for sex, drugs, food, and so forth, they are prone to stigmatize those who act on these impulses. In line with this reasoning, in 4 studies, the authors found that participants who were in a cold state (e.g., not hungry) made less favorable evaluations of a related impulsive behavior (impulsive eating) than did participants who were in a hot state (e.g., hungry). This empathy gap effect was tested with 3 different visceral states-fatigue, hunger, and sexual arousal-and was found both when participants evaluated others' impulsive behavior (Studies 1 & 2) and when participants evaluated their own impulsive behavior (Study 3). Study 3 also demonstrated that the empathy gap effect is due to different perceptions of the strength of the visceral state itself. Finally, Study 4 revealed that this effect is state specific: Hungry people, for example, evaluated only hunger-driven impulses, and not other forms of impulse, more favorably.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-84
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007


  • affect
  • empathy
  • impulsive behavior
  • self-control
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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