Skip to main content Accessibility help

“Incentive hope” and the nature of impulsivity in low-socioeconomic-status individuals

  • Francesca Walsh (a1), Erik Cheries (a1) and Youngbin Kwak (a1)


Low-income environments have been associated with greater levels of impulsive behavior, which contribute to the higher debt and obesity rates that further perpetuate current wealth and health disparities. In this commentary, we describe how this might be explained by an appeal to “incentive hope” and the motivational drive toward consumption triggered by the future uncertainty these groups face.



Hide All
Appelt, K. C., Milch, K. F., Handgraaf, M. J. & Weber, E. U. (2011) The decision making individual differences inventory and guidelines for the study of individual differences in judgment and decision-making research. Judgment and Decision Making 6(3):252262
Bair, J. (2005) Global capitalism and commodity chains: Looking back, going forward. Competition & Change 9(2):153–80.
Brandt, M. J., Wetherell, G. & Henry, P. J. (2015) Changes in income predict change in social trust: A longitudinal analysis. Political Psychology 36(6):761–68.
Brown, J. R., Ivković, Z. & Weisbenner, S. (2015) Empirical determinants of intertemporal choice. Journal of Financial Economics 116(3):473–86.
Burdick, J. D., Roy, A. L. & Raver, C. C. (2013) Evaluating the Iowa Gambling Task as a direct assessment of impulsivity with low-income children. Personality and Individual Differences 55(7):771–76.
Casswell, S., Pledger, M. & Hooper, R. (2003) Socioeconomic status and drinking patterns in young adults. Addiction 98(5):601–10.
Castillo, M., Ferraro, P. J., Jordan, J. L. & Petrie, R. (2011) The today and tomorrow of kids: Time preferences and educational outcomes of children. Journal of Public Economics 95(11–12):1377–85.
Cheon, B. K. & Hong, Y.-Y. (2017) Mere experience of low subjective socioeconomic status stimulates appetite and food intake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114:7277. Available at:
Courtemanche, C., Heutel, G. & McAlvanah, P. (2015) Impatience, incentives and obesity. The Economic Journal 125(582):131.
de Oliveira, A. C. M., Leonard, T. C. M., Shuval, K., Skinner, C. S., Eckel, C. & Murdoch, J.C. (2016) Economic preferences and obesity among a low-income African American community. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 131(Part B):196208
Eckel, C., Johnson, C. & Montmarquette, C. (2013) Human capital investment by the poor: Informing policy with laboratory experiments. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 95:224–39.
Farah, M. J. & Hook, C. J. (2017) Trust and the poverty trap. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114(21): 5327–29.
Haushofer, J. & Fehr, E. (2014) On the psychology of poverty. Science 344(6186):862–67.
Hershfield, H. E., Goldstein, D. G., Sharpe, W. F., Fox, J., Yeykelis, L., Carstensen, L. L. & Bailenson, J. N. (2011) Increasing saving behavior through age-progressed renderings of the future self. Journal of Marketing Research 48(SPL):S23S37.
Hiscock, R., Bauld, L., Amos, A., Fidler, J. A. & Munafò, M. (2012) Socioeconomic status and smoking: A review. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1248(1):107–23.
Jachimowicz, J. M., Chafik, S., Munrat, S., Prabhu, J. C. & Weber, E. U. (2017) Community trust reduces myopic decisions of low-income individuals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114(21):54015406.
Kwak, Y., Walsh, F., Chen, X., Cheries, E. & Ya, W. (2017) Feelings about the future: The effects of perceived stability on decision making in students across US and China. Poster presented at the 5th Annual Flux Society Congress, September 16–18, 2017, Portland, OR.
Laibson, D. I., Repetto, A., Tobacman, J., Hall, R. E., Gale, W. G. & Akerlof, G. A. (1998) Self-control and saving for retirement. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 1998(1):91196.
Meier, S. & Sprenger, C. (2010) Present-biased preferences and credit card borrowing. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2(1):193210.
Meier, S. & Sprenger, C. D. (2013) Discounting financial literacy: Time preferences and participation in financial education programs. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 95:159–74.
Payne, B. K., Brown-Iannuzzi, J. L. & Hannay, J. W. (2017) Economic inequality increases risk taking. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114(18):4643–48.
Shafir, E., (2017) Decisions in poverty contexts. Current Opinion in Psychology 18:131–36.
Shah, A. K., Mullainathan, S. & Shafir, E. (2012) Some consequences of having too little. Science 338(6107):682–85.
Sirola, N. & Pitesa, M. (2017) Economic downturns undermine workplace helping by promoting a zero-sum construal of success. Academy of Management Journal 60(4):1339–59.
Weber, E. U., Johnson, E. J., Milch, K. F., Chang, H., Brodscholl, J. C. & Goldstein, D. G. (2007) Asymmetric discounting in intertemporal choice: A query-theory account. Psychological science 18(6):516–23.
Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K. (2011) The spirit level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger. Bloomsbury.
Yoon, S. & Kim, H. C. (2016) Keeping the American dream alive: The interactive effect of perceived economic mobility and materialism on impulsive spending. Journal of Marketing Research 53(5):759–72.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed