ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (10): 2278-2290.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02278

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Neural mechanisms underlying the effect of low socioeconomic status on self-regulation

HU Xiaoyong(), DU Tangyan, LI Lanyu, WANG Tiantian   

  1. Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality, Ministry of Education, Chongqing 400715, China
  • Received:2021-10-09 Online:2022-10-15 Published:2022-08-24
  • Contact: HU Xiaoyong


In the historical stage of solidly promoting common prosperity, low-income groups are the key support groups to promote common prosperity. How to improve the self-development ability of low-income groups is an important way to achieve common prosperity. One of the core abilities of self-development ability is self-regulation ability. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and regulate cognition, emotion and behavior in order to achieve goals and adapt to the changing environment, it includes three independent and interactive components: cognition, emotion and behavior. Self-regulation has a strong and extensive impact on individual development and plays a role in various fields such as achievement, interpersonal communication and health. It not only promotes positive behavior, but also prevents bad behavior. Self-regulation is regarded as the key to human success and happiness. Improving the self-regulation ability of low-income groups is conducive to increasing human capital, increasing income, reducing medical and health care costs, and then conducive to the realization of common prosperity.

However, many studies have found that people who live in low socioeconomic conditions have poor self-regulation ability. In order to improve their self-regulation ability, we must deeply investigate the mechanism of low socioeconomic status affecting self-regulation. Because the brain is the main channel for the environment to affect individual psychology and behavior, neuroscience methods can observe specific behavioral, cognitive and emotional brain processes, and then provide unique information, which plays an irreplaceable role: low socioeconomic status changes the structure and function of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(DLPFC), cingulate gyrus, ventromedial prefrontal cortex(vmPFC), amygdala, hippocampus and ventral striatum(VS), and then affects various components of self-regulation (cognitive regulation, emotional regulation and behavioral regulation). Specifically, low socioeconomic status affects the structure and function of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(DLPFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), and then affects cognitive regulation. Amygdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex(vmPFC) and hippocampus are three key brain regions in the process of emotion regulation affected by low socioeconomic status. Ventral striatum (VS) may be the physiological basis of low socioeconomic status affecting behavioral regulation. Since behavioral regulation is the result of cognitive regulation and emotional regulation playing a role in the interrelated balance, the neural mechanism of low socioeconomic status affecting behavioral regulation may also involve brain regions related to cognitive regulation and emotional regulation.

In order to make the research findings in this field give full play to the value of practice and policy, future research should be strengthened in the following aspects: First, for each step of the potential "causal chain" of "low socioeconomic status - brain structure and function - self-regulation - adverse consequences", there is an urgent need for more research and more in-depth investigation. Low socioeconomic status does not necessarily lead to adverse consequences, the influence of low socioeconomic status on self-regulation and its neural mechanism also have complex paths. Second, connect neurobiology with developmental psychology, and reveal the unique impact mechanism of low socioeconomic status on self-regulation at different development stages. Living in low socioeconomic conditions in a specific development stage may have a unique impact on different aspects of self-regulation. Third, in the long run, promoting the self-regulation ability of people who live in low socioeconomic conditions is the key to improving human capital and the core of realizing common prosperity. Future research should explore the adaptive response and advantageous response of people who live in low socioeconomic conditions at the neural and behavioral levels from the perspective of adaptation, which is conducive to the development of systematic, sustainable and effective self-regulation intervention schemes on the basis of mechanism research, so as to make the intervention design better adapt to the needs and potential of people who live in low socioeconomic conditions.

Key words: low socioeconomic status, cognitive regulation, emotional regulation, behavioral regulation, neural mechanism

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