The purpose of the present study was to investigate the cognitive impact poverty has on food choice behavior. The poor behave in ways that further perpetuate themselves into poverty as their ability to make smart decisions is hindered by juggling the burdens of poverty leaving little cognitive space make healthful choices (Mani, Mullainathan, Shafir, & Zhao, 2013). A survey was administered via Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTURK) to 100 participants. It presented hypothetical easier or more difficult financial scenarios to invoke cognitive strain, which was then measured using the Raven’s Progressive Matrices and the Cognitive Reflection Test. The scores of both cognitive assessments were compared between income groups and scenario difficulty as well as for their interaction. The quantitative results of the study did not provide any significant results; however, the qualitative data revealed striking differences between income groups such as, a budget decrease did not alter the quality of life for high-income participants as they had more flexibility in their budget, additionally it was found that high-income participants did not know how to manage a tight budget compared to low-income participants. Taken together the results of this study demonstrate confounding findings that warrant for future investigation and research.


Thompson, Claudia






Cognitive function, scarcity, poverty, ego depletion, food choice, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, Cognitive Reflection Test

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Irene M. Goldsmith