Low-income brain can give way to lower IQ under stress & duress

By Leila Lemghalef

The recent blog post “Peak Performance: How to raise your IQ by up to 14%” discusses findings related to IQ and scarcity mindsets, and sums up that thinking along the lines of scarcity can affect your IQ for the worse.

Toronto-based negotiation expert and entrepreneur Dan Green, author of The Negotiation Blog explains that “how you think, or the mindset you adopt, affects how well you think.”

“As I’ve written before,” he adds, “one of the most common mindsets I observe in negotiation is one of scarcity- the nagging feeling that there isn’t enough to go around. It turns out that this is a (much) bigger problem than I even thought.”

He cites a study by Harvard and Princeton professors (Mullainathan and Shafir respectively), authors of Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives (Picador, 2014).

Green passes along how these researchers found that low-income subjects suffered a decline in their cognitive performance equal to about 13-14 IQ points when confronted with the idea of a $3000 expense to repair their car.

“It’s not the existence of scarce resources,” Green reflects, “but being primed to think in terms of scarcity has this effect on your IQ.”

He was blown away by the results of this experiment, and the extent to which the scarcity-based brain’s performance is taxed, even though on an intuitive level, “this makes sense.”

Green finds that dropping 14 points in cognitive function is an extreme drop.

“It’s a stronger dulling effect than going an entire night without sleep,” he points out.

As he brings the question of scarcity to the context of negotiation, he shares that individuals in the midst of conflict or negotiation are almost always thinking that there is a shortage at play, and that one side will win at the expense of the other.

“The problem is that if my goal is to win, I’ve just created scarcity out of thin air,” Green writes.

Overall, “over 30 years of research suggests that one of, if not THE most common goal in negotiation is making us dumb…er.”

Green has helped executives negotiate deals worth up to 400 million USD. He is the president of Bridge Consulting International, where he trains and coaches people on their negotiation and communication skills. His work so far has lent itself to the microfinance industry worldwide, corporate clients such as Bank of America and Nokia, and the peace process between the Colombian government and the ELN guerillas. He currently serves as Chief Advisor to the Order of Canada winning transportation engineering Dr. Josef Kates, Founding Partner of Kates, Peat, Marwick (now KPMG).