Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Education Bookcast

Feb 28, 2018

Although ostensibly about economics, this book is in fact about the effect of poverty of various kinds on the mind.

Poverty is a shortage of resources. It could be money, time (busy people are "time-poor"), or some other resource. When people experience scarcity, their minds automatically, subconsciously devote mental resources to the issue. The results of this are two.

1. They are more rational in their approach to the use of the resource, and use it more prudently. For example, usually supermarkets will have more than one size of packs of things, with the idea that if you buy a six-pack, it is cheaper per can than buying six individual cans of drink. However, sometimes supermarkets will play a trick, making the larger pack more expensive per item than the individual item. Poor people get caught out by this kind of trick much less often, as they are paying attention to prices, and reasoning about what is the best use of their money.

2. More importantly, the automatic assignment of mental resources to deal with the scarcity reduces the remaining free mental resources. This means that they have lower self-control, and - rather shockingly - have lower effective intelligence (i.e. they behave as if they were less intelligent than they "really" are, since some of their mental energy is constantly being consigned to worrying about money).

This has important consequences for thinking about the way the mind operates, as well as, on a social level, the effect of poverty on people's mental abilities. I hope you can see how, despite appearances, this book is in fact very relevant to education.

Enjoy the episode.

Music by