Burden of Poverty
Lacking money or time can lead one to make poorer decisions, possibly because poverty imposes a cognitive load that saps attention and reduces effort.
Mani et al. (p. 976; see the Perspective by Vohs) gathered evidence from shoppers in a New Jersery mall and from farmers in Tamil Nadu, India. They found that considering a projected financial decision, such as how to pay for a car repair, affects people’s performance on unrelated spatial and reasoning tasks. Lower-income individuals performed poorly if the repairs were expensive but did fine if the cost was low, whereas higher-income individuals performed well in both conditions, as if the projected financial burden imposed no cognitive pressure. Similarly, the sugarcane farmers from Tamil Nadu performed these tasks better after harvest than before.