Mani et al., Science 341, 2013
The Raven's matrices are puzzles that test the capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations. Notice how poor subjects in both the raven's test and control sitution did almost as well as rich subjects on the easy task, but did much more poorly on the hard task. [Caption modified from original for clarity.]
Does poor decision-making lead to being poor—or is it the other way around?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science, saying:
What if poverty actually affects brain function?
Researchers from Harvard, Princeton, and other universities tried a couple of experiments. First, they asked low- to middle-income shoppers to imagine a stressful money situation—an expensive car repair. That zinger was followed by an IQ test. Fun!
Turns out, the more worried the subjects were about the hypothetical financial disaster, the worse they did on the tests. Those who could easily afford to blow a wad on a new radiator? Did just fine.
Next, they measured cognitive function in farmers in India both before the sugar cane harvest – when they were especially cash-strapped—and after, when they were rolling in—um—sugar cane. The farmers showed diminished concentration and mental capacities pre-harvest, and did much better afterwards.
The researchers conclude that the mental strain of making ends meet is equal to pulling a college all-nighter—and blowing it in class the next day.
So, to ace that big exam—ask your parents to send money! Nice try, kids.
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