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Entries in Peer Pressure (4)

Thursday
Mar282013

Teens' Peer Struggles Can Forecast Long-Term Problems

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to a new study, teenagers who struggle to connect with their peers often struggle to make friends and avoid problems later in life, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Virginia published the results of the study in the journal Child Development.

Joseph P. Allen, Hugh P. Kelly Distinguished Professor at the University of Virginia, led the study. "Overall, we found that teens face a high-wire act with their peers," said Allen. "They need to establish strong, positive connections with them while at the same time establishing independence in resisting deviant peer influences. Those who don’t manage this have significant problems as much as a decade later."

The study followed approximately 150 teens for 10 years in order to determine whether there were long-term impacts to peer struggles during the adolescent years. The study found that there were long-terms effects, including difficulty managing disagreements in romantic relationships.

Additionally, the study showed that teens who were involved in minor forms of deviance were at higher risk of alcohol and substance use and illegal behavior later in life.

According to the study, teens who managed to connect with others while still standing up for themselves and "becoming their own persons" were rated as the most competent overall by age 23.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr132012

Toddlers Give In to Peer Pressure, Too?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents often warn teens as they reach junior high and high school about the negative effects of peer pressure.  But should parents start worrying about peer pressure earlier?  A new study suggests that even toddlers give in to the influence of their peers.

Researchers reported that 2-year-olds are more likely influenced to copy the actions of three other toddlers than if they saw the same actions carried out by just one other toddler, HealthDay reports.

Study author Daniel Haun, of the Max Planck Institutes of Evolutionary Anthropology and Psycholinguistics in Germany and the Netherlands commented in a release for the journal Current Biology, which also published Haun's findings, that very few people think of children this young as influenced by the majority.  "Parents and teachers should be aware of these dynamics in children's peer interactions," Haun said.

The researchers also found, according to Health Day, similarities for social learning between humans and chimps.  While chimpanzees tend to follow the group, orangutans do not.

But sensitivity to peer pressure does not always have to be negative, Haun pointed out.

"The tendency to acquire the behaviors of the majority has been posited as key to the transmission of relatively safe, reliable and productive behavioral strategies," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Jun302011

How Peer Pressure Changes Memory

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(REHOVOT, Israel) -- If asked whether Rhett stays with Scarlett at the end of Gone with the Wind, most having seen the film would confidently reply that he doesn’t.  But if the consensus in a group was to the contrary, would respondents' minds change?  Some might like to think not, but a century of psychology research says they likely would -- a phenomenon called “memory conformity."  It’s the power of peer pressure and it can permanently change our memory, even though what we remember initially may be correct.  

A study from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel used brain scans to determine exactly what happens in a person’s brain when memory conformity occurs.

Twenty study participants watched a video and three days later answered a variety of simple questions about the video’s plot.  They then returned a few days later and underwent a brain scan while being re-tested about the video -- except this time, they were also shown mostly incorrect answers from four fictional study participants.  As a result, participants changed their previously correct answers into the incorrect ones in 68 percent of the cases in which the “peer group” provided the wrong answer.  

But was this just group appeasement, or did peer pressure actually change the participant’s memory for good?  The authors brought back the participants one more time a week later and told them that they had played a trick on them and that the peer group’s answers were totally random and made up.  They then re-tested the participants’ memory and found that they reverted to their original, correct answers 60 percent of the time.  This means that 40 percent of the memories were permanently altered by peer pressure.  

Looking back at the brain scans from the time that the participants were exposed to peer pressure, the authors found an elevated level of activity between a brain area that processes emotion and one which processes memories.  They therefore think that it’s this “emotional override” of sorts which permanently alters our memories.
 
This study's findings are published in the journal Science.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar102011

Study: Brains of Volatile Preteens Might Offer Clues About Peer Pressure

BananaStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Why are some adolescents more emotional and susceptible to risky behaviors, while others remain steadfast in the face of peer pressure?

Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA medical school, raised just that question about his 14-year-old daughter. So Iacoboni and a team of researchers sought to answer what might make adolescents give in to their friends and take more risks.

"When [adolescents are] among a group of people, they to tend to follow what others do, and being able to control their own emotions and actions can be very important," said Iacoboni, who is also the director of the transcranial magnetic stimulation lab at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA. Brain responses to emotional facial expressions would offer the first clue, he said.

Iacoboni and his colleagues took brain images of 38 adolescents over time as they were shown pictures of people expressing basic emotions, such as fear, happiness, sadness, anger, and neutrality. The researchers found that as the adolescents looked at faces expressing happiness or sadness, the area of the brain that expressed control over emotions showed increased activity. The same group of adolescents reacted less emotionally to the other expressions, and the area of the brain associated with risk-taking and pleasure seeking lit up.

Previous research indicated that increased activity in the amygdala, an area deep in the brain, among preteens is associated with a higher likelihood of engaging in risky behavior, such as experimenting with drugs or sex.

"The assumption was more activity in there meant it was bad for the kids," said Iacoboni. "But we found higher activities and desires in other areas of the brain made them less prone to follow other kids."

Iacoboni and his researchers found that activity in the ventral striatum, located next to the amygdala, also increased when the adolescents were shown more emotional photos.

"We saw there's an inverse activity relationship between the amygdala and the ventral striatum," said Iacoboni. "The VS activity increased while the amygdala activity slightly decreased, so the VS regulates the amygdala."

But could a test like this predict whether a preteen is more likely to act out or succumb to peer pressure? Iacoboni said it's still too early to tell. The study didn't control for other factors in the adolescents' lives, such as socioeconomic status, current behavior and life influences that could contribute to future behavior.

The adolescents were tested twice over two years, once at age 10 and again at age 13. The researchers plan to test the group once again when they're 16.

The research so far suggests that facial expressions and emotions directed at adolescents may influence their brain response and, potentially, how they act. Perhaps parents who express -- or control -- their emotions around their preteens could influence the way they express or hold back their emotions around others, Iacoboni said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio