The Science of decision making and peer pressure.

PositionTEACHER'S GUIDE

One of the biggest challenges teens face is standing up to peer pressure. This article helps explain why by describing the science of how the developing teen brain reacts to both rewards and peers. We build on this understanding by highlighting teen risk taking when driving with passengers. Together, this article and lesson will help your students understand how their brains make decisions, the influence of their peers on those decisions, and what they can do to better navigate peer-pressure situations.

SUBJECT

* Science Literacy

* English Language Arts

* Health/Life Skills

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

* RI.1 Cite textual evidence

* RI.2 Central idea and details

* W.1 Write arguments

NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

* LS1.A Structure and Function

* LS1.D Information Processing

NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

* Structure and Function in Living Things

* Personal and Community Health

NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR THE SOCIAL STUDIES

* Individual Development and Identity

Critical-Thinking Questions:

  1. Why do teens have a stronger emotional reaction to their peers than adults or children do? Cite examples from the article. (During adolescence, the reward center of teens' brains has more dopamine receptors and is more likely to react strongly to the positive feelings produced by being around peers. Rejection by peers causes a bigger response in the areas of teens' brains that govern negative emotions.)

  2. What are two pieces of evidence from the article that suggest that teens make riskier decisions when they are with their friends than when they are alone? (In Steinberg's study, the teen drivers ran more yellow lights when their friends were watching than when they were alone. Teen drivers engage in riskier behavior if other teens are in the car.)

Writing Prompts:

* Grades 6-8: The decision-making process in teens is strongly affected by rewards and peers. How might this impact teens in both positive and negative ways?

* Grades 9-10: Peer pressure can challenge teens to take beneficial risks, or it can drive them to make decisions they regret. How can teens prepare themselves to resist negative peer pressure yet remain open to positive influences?

* Grades 11-12: Today's teens don't interact only in person. How do you think peer interaction through social media and texting might impact teens' decision making, and what positive and negative consequences could result? Consider what you have learned about how the presence of teens can impact risky...

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