A new study conducted at the University of Princeton and published in the journal Science has revealed that poor people aren’t stupid after all. Not having the financial resources to meet their daily obligations takes up so much cognitive bandwidth that they simply aren’t able to focus and make good decisions, say an August 29 MSN report.
According to the researchers, “The poor use less preventive health care, fail to adhere to drug regimens, are tardier and less likely to keep appointments, are less productive workers, less attentive parents, and worse managers of their finances.”
Until now, it was assumed that these traits were due to a lack of cognitive skills to overcome poverty, but new research sheds new light on the topic.
Professor Jiaying Zhao who worked on the study told MSN, "We're arguing that the lack of financial resources itself can lead to impaired cognitive function. The very condition of not having enough can actually be a cause of poverty.”
Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan likens the brain to a computer that slows down when a large video is being downloading in the background. The computer still has the same ability, but when its resources are directed to the act of downloading the video, there is little left over for other activities. Poor people, it seems, are drained of their ability to attend to making wise decisions because day-to-day living tasks occupy all their cognitive resources.
Eldar Shafir of Princeton University who also worked on the study, known as the Shafir Study, further explains that unlike their more affluent counterparts, poor people have more on their plates than financial worries. They often take care of their own children, manage their own finances and provide transportation for the family, which taxes the cognitive resources.
Wealthier people, he contends have nannies to provide childcare, hire accountants to attend to finances and have drivers who attend to the day-to-day business of getting around. In addition, poor people often struggle to provide adequate childcare and services to their families.
For now, at least, poor people everywhere can rejoice knowing they aren’t stupid; the rest of the world just tends to think they are.