Research Hit: Reward is Processed Differently in the Brain if You’re Poor

Andy Hab
3 min readFeb 12, 2024

Your socioeconomic background predicts how much or little your brain responds to reward

Are you saying there is a poor brain and a rich brain?

Well, that is far too simplified, but I have reported on how poverty affects brain development in foetuses and children negatively previously (How Poverty Messes Up Babies’ Brains).

But the fascinating thing about his research just out by Alexandra Decker and colleagues from MIT is that it shows that when rewards are scarce brain activation is dampened.


Yes, and this is obviously associated with socioeconomic conditions i.e. whether you are from a wealthier or more impoverished background.

How did they research this?

They recruited 100 children between 12 and 14 from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds: that means based on household income and of parents’ educational levels. These then had their brains scanned while they were playing guessing games with small rewards of money.

I would have thought that those who were poorer would have responded stronger to the reward!



Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!