Nairobi Center PGIF Projects on Business Empowerment

August 07, 2021

PGIF Round 3 Projects (2015)

Project; The cognitive consequences of political violence.

Principal Investigator

Christopher Blattman:

  • Associate Professor in Political Science and School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Other Participants

  • Johannes Haushofer - Assistant Professor of Psychology, Princeton University.
  • Suresh Naidu - Assistant Professor of EconomicsS, chool of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.
  • Lauren Young- A PhD candidate in Political Science, Columbia University.

Local Collaborator

  • Busara Center Nairobi
  • Strathmore Business School in Nairobi


This project sought to investigate claims that stressors, such as poverty, impair cognition and bias decision-making. Psychological studies suggest that fear could have similar effects, and citizens, police, and legislators have to make decisions under various emotions. If fear distorts cognition or decision-making, then poor decisions may result in the wake of acts such as terrorism or crime. This project emphasized that stress and preoccupation lower cognitive performance, which leads poorer people to make decisions that perpetuate poverty, such as taking out high-interest loans. Wealthier people do not react to stress the same way because the financial decision does not preoccupy or stress them out to the same extent.