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Scarcity Has A Profound Impact On The Brain, Resulting In Bad Decisions

September 21, 2013: 12:00 AM EST
A Harvard economics professor makes the case that dealing with scarcity – of food, money, time, etc. – clogs the brain. People on diets tend to be so distracted by thoughts of calories that they end up making bad food decisions. The impact of scarcity on the brain extends beyond calorie counting. A similar impairment occurs whenever people must make do with less time or money. Poor people don’t make bad choices because they are inherently incapable. The real problem is “the mental strain that poverty imposes on anyone who must endure it”. As to dieting, the professor says the Atkins diet is probably popular because it simply bans certain foods: it doesn’t require mentally taxing calorie counting.
Sendhil Mullainathan, "The Mental Strain of Making Do With Less", The New York Times, September 21, 2013, © The New York Times Company
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