Psychological Impacts of SES


One prominent finding in the study of poverty is the association between financial scarcity and reduced cognitive control. Theorists have argued that this link can help explain how social inequality is perpetuated. A recent replication study has cast some doubt on this effect, but failed replications and null effects could be a result of testing the wrong mechanisms by which financial scarcity impacts cognitive function. Previous work has primarily focused on how the effects of scarcity on cognitive control might be explained by attentional shifts. In ongoing work, I am testing whether the effects are caused by financial stress – the anxiety and worry that occurs when needs exceed resources. To test the experience of financial stress as a potential mechanism, I had participants complete a stop-signal task before and after a financial stress recall manipulation. Results from the preliminary study with undergraduates (N = 215) showed that financial stress reduced inhibitory control more than social stress. We followed this up with a stage 1 registered report to test these effects, and the impact of financial stress on real world economic decisions, in a larger sample in a more financially diverse population. This report has received in-principle acceptance at the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (Hughes, Ludwig, & Berkman, Stage 1 RR) and data collection is currently in progress. You can find the stage 1 preprint here.

Bradley T. Hughes
Bradley T. Hughes
Postdoctoral Fellow, Social Perception and Cognition Lab

My research investigates the impressions people form of others during face-to-face interactions, the stereotypes that manifest in these impressions, and how they impact social decisions.