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article imageMoney worries affect the brain

By Tim Sandle     Aug 31, 2013 in Health
A psychological study has shown that financial concerns are tied to poorer performance across a range of cognitive tasks.
It is no revelation that worrying about money can clearly preoccupy the mind. What is less well known is how financial concerns affect the way the human brain processes information and deals with problems.
To explore this further, a research team have shown that concerns over money might reduce a person's mental function, in particular there could be a causal relationship between financial strife and poor decision-making.
Jiaying Zhao, who studies human behavior at the University of British Columbia, led a research team which has published a paper in the journal Science. The paper outlines two experiments undertaken to explore the finance-performance link.
In one experiment, Zhao’s team asked New Jersey mall shoppers with various incomes to think about how they might take care of car repairs. When the cost of the hypothetical repairs was low, the participants did equally well on a cognitive test. However, when the cost was high, the wealthier subjects outperformed those of lesser means.
In a second experiment, the researchers gave Indian sugarcane farmers cognitive tests before and after the harvest, which corresponds to fluxes in income. The farmers are typically constrained financially before the harvest and flush after it. Again, the results showed that the farmers performed better on the mental tasks after the harvest, when money was coming in.
In conclusion, the researchers estimate that cognitive deficits related to financial woes are on par with the loss in function resulting from staying awake all night, that is a drop in IQ of around 13 points.
The authors' stress that 'poor people' are not less intelligent that wealth people, in fact, far from it. However, certain stress factors affect thinking. The authors' write: "That’s not to say that poor people are less intelligent than others. What we show is that the same person experiencing poverty suffers a cognitive deficit as opposed to when they’re not experiencing poverty."
More about Money, Worry, Psychology, Brain, cognitive
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