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Reminiscing Proud Moments Boosts IQ in Poor

Update Date: Dec 17, 2013 02:01 PM EST
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Reminiscing better times may boost brain functioning in the needy.

A new study reveals that thinking about better times, like past success, enhances brain functioning by several IQ points and increases willingness to seek help in people living in poverty.

Psychologists said the latest findings suggest that reconnecting the poor with feelings of self-worth can help reduce stigmas and psychological barriers that make making good decisions or accessing assistance services easier for low-income individuals.

"This study shows that surprisingly simple acts of self-affirmation can improve the cognitive function and behavioral outcomes of people in poverty," researcher Jiaying Zhao of the University of British Columbia said in a news release.

Researchers conducted experiments in a New Jersey soup kitchen for more than two years. Researchers said nearly 150 study participants were asked to privately record a personal story with a tape recorder before taking part in a few problem-solving tests.

The findings revealed that participants randomly assigned to "self affirm" performed significantly better on the tests. Researchers explained that recounting proud moments or past achievements seemed to boost brain functioning by an average of ten points. Participants in the "self-affirm" group were also more likely to seek out information on aid services from the local government.

Researchers said that latest findings have 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.

Based on the latest findings, researchers theorize that self-affirmation lessens the mentally overwhelming stigma and cognitive threats of poverty. According to researchers, poverty can impair reasoning and cause bad decisions because it takes up so much mental energy that those in poor circumstances have little remaining brainpower to think of other areas of life.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science

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