The work carried out by an international US, British and Canadian team, demonstrates how poverty takes its toll on brain function, leaving less room for working on other tasks.
Previous data had shown a link between poverty and bad decision-making, but the root causes of this correlation were unclear.
Published in the journal Science, the study aimed to rule out other confounding factors like nutrition, health, physical exhaustion and family commitments, but measured blood pressure and heartbeat.
· Before the harvest, when they have taken out loans to grow the crops and thus are extremely poor
· After the harvest, but before being paid, when farmers are at the greatest extent of their poverty
· After being paid.
They compared the same person when he has less money to when he has more money. IQ tests showed he was more intelligent when he had more money.
When conditions were easy, there was no difference in performance of the rich or poor. But in the harder conditions the performance of the poor dropped off.
The study concludes that those in poverty, by having more continual and extensive financial worries, expend more of their mental capacity on these concerns, so that less can be used for other tasks. The results indicate that the constant financial pressure can initiate a downward spiral for the less fortunate in society.
In a household close to me, two people handle the same set of financial difficulties in different ways. The big-spender male, responsible for balancing finances, worries incessantly and reports insomnia. The cautious-saver female disregards future consequences and sleeps well. Both are intelligent, but deal with stress a different way. This unofficial study aimed to rule out other confounding factors.
Nobody can prevent poverty happening to them in certain unavoidable circumstances. How do you think you would respond to a study?