The findings suggest that reconnecting the poor with feelings of self-worth reduces the powerful stigma and psychological barriers that make it harder for low-income individuals to make good decisions or access the very assistance services that can help them get back on their feet.
"This study shows that surprisingly simple acts of self-affirmation can improve the cognitive function and behavioural outcomes of people in poverty," says University of British Columbia professor Jiaying Zhao and study co-author. The study will be published this month in Psychological Science.
The main experiments took place in a New Jersey soup kitchen over two years. Nearly 150 study participants were asked to privately record a personal story with a tape recorder before doing a variety of problem-solving tests.
Compared to a control group, participants randomly assigned to "self-affirm" – to recount a proud moment or past achievement – performed dramatically better on the tests, equivalent to a ten-point increase in IQ. They were also more likely to seek out information on aid services from the local government.
While previous studies have successfully seen self-affirmation improve test scores in two other marginalized groups – African-American students and female math students – this is the first study to show it in the poor, and the first to use oral self-affirmation techniques tailored to participants' low literacy levels.
The study has important policy implications, including the potential to improve enrolment in government or charity assistance programs (health care, food stamps, tax rebates), which are used by only a fraction of eligible participants.
Zhao and co-authors Eldar Shafir of Princeton University and Crystal Hall of University of Washington theorize that self-affirmation alleviates the mentally overwhelming stigma and cognitive threats of poverty, which can impair reasoning, cause bad decisions and perpetuate financial woes.
This study builds on previous research by Zhao and colleagues from Princeton, Harvard and University of Warwick, which found that poverty consumes so much mental energy that those in poor circumstances have little remaining brainpower to concentrate on other areas of life.
As a result, less "mental bandwidth" remains for education, training, time-management, assistance programs and other steps that could help break out of the cycles of poverty.
Jiaying Zhao is an assistant professor in UBC's Dept. of Psychology and Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability.
Basil Waugh | EurekAlert!
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
20.02.2018 | Life Sciences
20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering
20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy