Remembering better times help overcome poverty

New York, Dec 18: For people in poverty, recalling past achievements can help them overcome the turbulent phase they find themselves in.

Remembering better times improves brain functioning by several IQ points and increases willingness to seek help from crucial aid services, says a new study.

“This study shows that surprisingly simple acts of self-affirmation can improve the cognitive function and behavioural outcomes of people in poverty,” said Jiaying Zhao, the study’s co-author and professor at the University of British Columbia.

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 government assistance services that can help them get back on their feet.

Nearly 150 participants, over a period of two years, were asked to privately record a personal story before performing a series of problem-solving tests.

Participants randomly assigned to “self-affirm” — to recount a proud moment or past achievement — performed dramatically better on the tests, equivalent to a 10-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 marginalised 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 findings of the study have appeared in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science.