Poverty, Cognition, and Human Potential: Another Crack in The 'Bell Curve' Myth
Science on how poverty affects mental capacities, in many respects, supports Maslow's pyramid of needs theory, namely, less demands for basic needs opens the mind to higher-order cogitation and creativity. Economic deprivation imposes such a massive cognitive load that little brain bandwidth is left over to maximize human potential.
In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night’s sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.
The finding further undercuts the theory that poor people, through inherent weakness, are responsible for their own poverty – or that they ought to be able to lift themselves out of it with enough effort. This research suggests that the reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills. Being poor means, as the authors write, “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.”Read rest here.