For the poor, Does attentional bias or worry explain the relationship between financial stressors and poor cognitive performance?

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Joy, Eileen E.
Washburn University
Issue Date
March 27, 2017
Alternative Title
Understanding how financial stressors may affect cognitive performance of low income individuals requires an examination of potential moderators and mediators. A moderated mediation model was proposed testing whether attentional bias or worry explained the relationship between financial stressor and cognitive performance for different levels of income and material hardship. Participants (127 undergraduate students) were randomly assigned to low and high financial stressor conditions as well as divided into low and high income groups. This moderation model was significant, F(3,101) = 7.49, p = .0001, R2 = .173, with financial stressor, income, and their interaction predicting Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices (RAPM) scores. Low income individuals in the high financial stressor condition performed poorly on the cognitive task. Participants were also divided into low and high material hardship groups. The interaction between material hardship and financial stressor produced a significant moderation model predicting RAPM scores after adding worry as a covariate, F(4,120) = 3.80, p = .006, R2 = .090. The moderated mediation models including attentional bias or worry as mediators were not significant, as all of the resulting indices of moderated mediation were contained within a 95% confidence interval that included zero. The first replication of Mani et al.’s (2013) findings using a college sample, this study found high financial stressors led to cognitive performance deficits for only low income individuals. This study also provides new evidence that financial stressors may affect the cognitive performance of individuals experiencing material hardship. Additional research is needed to examine alternative mediators in these relationships.