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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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.