Researchers show risk-averse teens sway peers to make safer choices

Pearl Chiu and Brooks King-Casas, both associate professors at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, combined brain scans and computational modeling to understand how social peers sway decision-making in teenagers. They examined neural activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and found a notable difference between how substance-naïve and substance-exposed teens responded to safe and risky peers’ choices. Teens who had not used illicit substances showed significantly more activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, particularly when they viewed their peers’ safe choices, which indicates a greater social reward signal. Credit: Virginia Tech

Your high school friends may have had a bigger influence on your behavior than you once thought.

Prior studies about peer pressure have focused on why adolescents are likely to experiment along with friends who use drugs and alcohol. But do friends who avoid risks have similar influential power? Could observing a peer making a safe choice…

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