The findings, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, indicate that an urgent need — making rent, getting money for food — tugs at the attention so much that it can reduce the brainpower of anyone who experiences it, regardless of innate intelligence or personality.
There's a widespread tendency to assume that poor people don't have money because they are lazy, unmotivated or just not that sharp, said study coauthor Sendhil Mullainathan, a behavioral economist at Harvard University. "That's a broad narrative that's pretty common," Mullainathan said. "Our intuition was quite different: It's not that poor people are any different than rich people, but that being poor in itself has an effect...
Almost like a computer that has some other process running the background, poverty creates this nagging background process and that could itself have an effect on actual cognitive capacity," Mullainathan said.
A child in a constant state of unmanaged stress is primarily focused on survival. "Continual emotional distress can create deficits in a child's intellectual abilities, crippling the capacity to learn" (Goleman, p.27).
The Powerful Impact of Stress, John Hopkins School of Education