Researchers measured the IQ of over 400 farmers in hot Tamil Nadu, southern India, before and after their annual harvest.
For context, this harvest yields them 60% of their annual income, in one swoop.
These farmers are usually poor, but for that one brief period of time, they are flush with cash. They have options.
The researchers found that the farmers’ IQ increases by 10% after their harvest cash comes in.
Then, as in Flowers for Algernon, their IQ plummets as they descend again into poverty. When cash is scarce, the IQ drops.
The same researchers found similar results among a similar-sized group of low-to-middle income shoppers at a mall in New Jersey. One sample group faced a hypothetical $1,500 car repair bill. The other faced a $150 car repair bill.
Those faced with the $1,500 car repair bill lost 14 IQ points – instantly.
One explanation: as the mind races with stress hormones, cognitive capacity shrinks.
So inculcating scarcity into your messaging might work – and as the study’s authors point out, poverty begets poverty. So it might work multiples times over a lifetime engagement.
But here’s a more interesting product messaging challenge: selling to people at their smartest.
(This was originally published on Art of Message – subscribe here)