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Poverty impedes cognitive function

Date Added to Library: 
Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 18:32
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 
10.1126/science.1238041
Priority: 
high
Individual Author: 
Mani, Anandi
Mullainathan, Sendhil
Shafir, Eldar
Zhao, Jiaying
Reference Type: 
Research Methodology: 
Published Date: 
08/30/2013
Published Date (Date): 
Friday, August 30, 2013
Publication: 
Science
Volume: 
341
Page Range: 
976-980
Year: 
2013
Language(s): 
Abstract: 

The poor often behave in less capable ways, which can further perpetuate poverty. We hypothesize that poverty directly impedes cognitive function and present two studies that test this hypothesis. First, we experimentally induced thoughts about finances and found that this reduces cognitive performance among poor but not in well-off participants. Second, we examined the cognitive function of farmers over the planting cycle. We found that the same farmer shows diminished cognitive performance before harvest, when poor, as compared with after harvest, when rich. This cannot be explained by differences in time available, nutrition, or work effort. Nor can it be explained with stress: Although farmers do show more stress before harvest, that does not account for diminished cognitive performance. Instead, it appears that poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity. We suggest that this is because poverty-related concerns consume mental resources, leaving less for other tasks. These data provide a previously unexamined perspective and help explain a spectrum of behaviors among the poor. We discuss some implications for poverty policy. (author abstract) 

Geographic Focus: 
Page Count: 
6
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