PSYC 4P56 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Peer Pressure
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Tasha Huggins - 4929261
PSYC 4P56 - Week 5
Thursday February 5, 2014
When examining adolescent risk taking behaviour, I think that it’s important to address
environmental influences rather than biological influences, which was done by Segalowitz et al.
(2012). In this study, the Chicken Test was used in order to assess how adolescents took and
evaluated risks with and without the presence of peers. They found that adolescents had the
tendency to take longer to stop the car when they were in the presence of peers who were
encouraging them as opposed to adolescents who were by themselves. This shows that
adolescents by themselves are no more prone than adults to taking risks, and that the difference
in risk taking is present when they are being encouraged by peers to take more risks.
I think the idea of peer pressure can explain many differences in behaviour that we see in
adolescents compared to adults. Since adolescence is a time of transition where they experience
many different changes such as hitting puberty or transitioning from highschool to
university/college, they may feel more positive reward emotions from the novel experiences that
are associated with peer groups. Generally, adolescents are prone to more risky driving
behaviours which I think may be attributed to the novelty of driving. Since driving is a relatively
new skill for them, they may be less developed at the multitasking aspect of it as well as heavily
influenced by the excitement of being able to develop their independence from their family by
being able to drive. In the context of driving, I think that adolescents may be more prone to risks
because they are exposed to more positively encouraging stimuli and emotions to the point where
the benefits seemingly outweigh the costs based on quantity alone.
Since peer presence has a dramatic influence on adolescent behaviour, this influence may
be generalized to other more specific behaviours that are notable during adolescence. For
example, drug and alcohol use or bullying could begin depending on the peer groups an
individual associates themselves with. Regardless of genetics, I think that bullying would be a
behaviour that would occur as a result of the environment (family structure, peers) because
adolescents are typically more driven by social status and peer perceptions, so conforming to the
interests and activities of the individual’s peer group would be more motivating during
adolescence. After inferring what we know about adolescents, we can make the prediction that
adolescents take more risks because it provides a stronger sense of reward for them where the
benefits of risk taking is more important than the costs of taking risks.
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