PHILADELPHIA (UPI) — The influence of peers on adolescents’ reward-seeking behavior may be a hardwired, evolutionarily conserved process, U.S. researchers say.
Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University and Jason Chein found an inclination toward risky behavior in groups of teens also holds true for teen mice.
“Most people attribute the peer effect on adolescent risk taking to peer pressure or the desire to impress friends, but our findings challenge that assumption,” Steinberg said in a statement. “We chose mice for this experiment because mice don’t know what their friends want them to do.”
For the study, a sample of mice were raised in same-sex triads and were tested for alcohol consumption either as juveniles or as adults, with half in each age group tested alone and half tested with their agemates.
The researchers found that the presence of “peers” increased alcohol consumption only among adolescent mice.
“The outcome of this study, in combination with our other recent findings involving human teens, indicates that the peer influence on reward sensitivity during late adolescence is not just a matter of peer pressure or bravado or in any way dependent on familiarity with the observer,” Steinberg said.
The findings were published in Developmental Science.