A new study shows that worrying about money taxes our brain, and makes it harder to think well.
When people are poor, they are “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.” This means, for example, that poor people will score lower on IQ tests — simply because they are more worried about coping with their lack of resources.
It’s worth noting that the study is pushing a concept of “cognitive bandwidth” — which is explicitly treated as something that can fluctuate in response to the environment. This is to be contrasted with popular notions of “intelligence” or “IQ” which are typically (if erroneously) considered to be largely permanent fixed features.
“When your bandwidth is loaded, in the case of the poor,” Shafir says, “you’re just more likely to not notice things, you’re more likely to not resist things you ought to resist, you’re more likely to forget things, you’re going to have less patience, less attention to devote to your children when they come back from school.”