*The following is excerpted from an online article from PsychCentral.
Teenagers’ judgments of how risky a situation might be are most influenced by what other teenagers think, according to new research.
Most other age groups are more influenced by what adults think, noted researchers from the University College London.
For the study, 563 visitors to the London Science Museum were asked to rate the riskiness of everyday situations, such as crossing a road on a red light or taking a shortcut through a dark alley. Ratings were given on a scale from low to high risk.
Participants were then told how other people, either teenagers or adults, had rated the same situations, before being asked to rate each situation again. These risk levels from teenagers or adults were actually randomly generated by the researchers.
The researchers found that people in all age groups were influenced after hearing how others rated each situation and changed their risk ratings in the direction of other people’s. However, this social influence decreased with age.
Additionally, most age groups adjusted their ratings to conform to the ratings of adults than those of teenagers, except for young adolescents between the ages of 12 and 14.
“Young adolescents were more strongly influenced by other teenagers than by adults, suggesting that in early adolescence the opinions of other teenagers about risk matter more than the opinions of adults,” said lead author Dr. Lisa Knoll of the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.
“Our study showed that young adolescents do not perceive situations as less risky than older age groups, but do tend to change their risk perception in the direction of the opinions of similar aged peers. So other teenagers’ opinions about risk seem to influence young adolescents into judging a situation as less risky than they originally thought it was.”
The study was published in Psychological Science.