Abstract This article describes a new and emerging psychological perspective on hunger, together with the implications of that perspective, which is based upon learning and memory. Hunger is a psychological state characterized by a desire to eat. Historically, conceptions of hunger have largely been expressed in terms of physiology (eg, biological process X causes hunger). However, physiology neither offers a psychological account of hunger nor explains why memory impairment can eliminate hunger. Two forms of hunger are identified – specific and general. Specific hunger is for particular palatable foods. It involves recollecting episodic memories of eating that food, when an associated cue is encountered (eg, an advert). General hunger is a desire to eat triggered by temporal (eg, it is lunchtime) or interoceptive (eg, tummy rumble) cues. It involves semantic memory retrieval, which then augments the expected – remembered – pleasure for any food. Both hungers are supported by the medial temporal lobe memory system. Damage to this system can occur from eating a Western-style diet and, longer-term, from obesity and its consequences. Medial temporal lobe memory damage may cause deficits in specific hunger, but most especially in general hunger, resulting in little motivation to eat foods that the individual considers to be of low-to-moderate palatability, such as fruit and vegetables. The implications of this account for teaching people hunger, for how hunger is affected by diet, for public education, and pharmaceutical intervention, are discussed. Psychological concepts of hunger are widely used in nutritional practice. This article provides a new and emerging perspective on the psychological basis of hunger and its implications.

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