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!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine