Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/303

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297
THE NATURE OF HUNGER

pressed soon afterwards, long before any considerable amount of nutriment could be digested and absorbed, and therefore long before the blood and the general bodily condition, if previously altered, could be restored to normal.

Furthermore, persons exposed to privation have testified that hunger can be temporarily suppressed by swallowing indigestible materials. Certainly scraps of leather and bits of moss, not to mention clay eaten by the Otomacs, would not materially compensate for large organic losses. In rebuttal to this argument the comment has been made that central states as a rule can be readily overwhelmed by peripheral stimulation, and just as sleep, for example, can be abolished by bathing the temples, so hunger can be abolished by irritating the gastric walls.[1] That comment is beside the point, for it meets the issue by merely assuming as true the condition under discussion. The absence of hunger during the ravages of fever, and its quick abolition after food or even indigestible stuff is swallowed, still further weakens the argument, therefore, that the sensation arises directly from lack of nutriment in the body.

The Theory that Hunger is of General Origin does not Explain the Quick Onset and the Periodicity of the Sensation.—Many persons have noted that hunger has a sharp onset. A person may be tramping in the woods or working in the fields, where fixed attention is not demanded, and without premonition may feel the abrupt arrival of the characteristic ache. The expression "grub-struck" is a picturesque description of this experience. If this sudden arrival of the sensation corresponds to the general bodily state, the change in the general bodily state must occur with like suddenness or have a critical point at which the sensation is instantly precipitated. There is no evidence whatever that either of these conditions occurs in the course of metabolism.

Another peculiarity of hunger, which I have noticed in my own person, is its intermittancy. It may come and go several times in the course of a few hours. Furthermore, while the sensation is prevailing, its intensity is not uniform, but marked by ups and downs. In some instances the ups and downs change to a periodic presence and absence without change of rate. In making the above statements I do not depend on my own introspection alone; psychologists trained in this method of observation have reported that in their experience the temporal course of the sensation is distinctly intermittent.[2] In my own experience the hunger pangs came and went on one occasion as follows:

  1. See Schiff, loc. cit., p. 49.
  2. I am indebted to Professor J. W. Baird, of Clark University, and his collaborators, for this corroborative testimony.