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Extreme debtors may be exposed to debt accumulation due to inflated sense of self-control

Updated: Aug 17



A new study from the SPUR lab, conducted in collaboration with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and with the support of Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS), used a combination of a self-reporting questionnaire and behavioural measures to compare the profiles of extreme debtors (defined as those who owed credit card debts that amounted to 12 times or more of their monthly income) with two control groups. We found that extreme debtors have a low capacity to regulate their behaviour but hold an illusory perception of high capacity, which may expose them to further debt accumulation.


The results of the study were published in Journal of Personality in May this year.

Assoc Prof Jia said: “There is an urgency to identify and measure risk factors behind the global debt crisis which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Past studies have focused on variations in debt among the general population, but there has been little research into how those who suffer from extreme and prolonged debt view their own self-control ability and how this affects their behaviour until now. The use of behavioural measures in our study also allowed us to identify potential distortion in responses from self-reporting questionnaires as a result of the respondents’ mental construal which creates a biasness in how they respond.”

We sincerely thank NUS Business School PhD student Mr Yuen Wei Lun, one of our lab alumni, Dr Ong Qiyan from NUS Social Service Research Centre and Assoc Prof Walter Edgar Theseira from SUSS for their collaboration. The research would also not have been possible without the generous support from Credit Counselling Singapore.


Read more about our story on the NUSnews, Today, and Channel 8.