worrying captures our brains

[Heavy Hand, Sunken Spirit: Mexico at War, David Rochkind]

From The Opinionator at the Times, a piece on new research on poverty: scarcity causes a person to ‘tunnel’ which effectively shuts down his capacity for complex thought and decision making. This reverses a very common view: many of us believe that bad character produces poverty; now we know – supported by research – the opposite is true: poverty (or scarcity) produces reduced capacity for reasoning and thought.

From the Opinionator:

Worrying about money when it is tight captures our brains. It reduces our cognitive capacity — especially our abstract intelligence, which we use for problem-solving. It also reduces our executive control, which governs planning, impulses and willpower. The bad decisions of the poor, say the authors, are not a product of bad character or low native intelligence. They are a product of poverty itself. Your natural capability doesn’t decrease when you experience scarcity. But less of that capacity is available for use. If you put a middle-class person into a situation of scarcity, she will behave like a poor person.

Escaping the Cycles of Scarcity, Tina Rosenberg, Opinionator, New York Times