Why are teenagers so influenced by their peers?

Dr. Wouter van den Bos

Peer pressure is a powerful influence on adolescent decision-making. What is it about the brains of teenagers that makes it so important to be liked, and to go along with the crowd?

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It's something we all remember from our teenage years: the pressure to fit in. Why is it so fundamental to the adolescent experience? 

Peer influence is one of the major factors driving what we think of as core teenage behaviours, such as risk-taking, participation in fandoms, and tribalism. But what is it about the structure of the brain and how it changes during this period of life that makes a teenager's peer group so important? And is peer pressure an exclusively negative process, encouraging risky and inauthentic behaviour?

Dr. Wouter van den Bos is the Director of the Connected Minds Lab in Amsterdam, where he studies how learning and decision-making are impacted by changes in the brain, particularly where someone's social environment meets the developmental processes happening in their body. Wouter joins us in The Garden to get under the skin of why teenagers care so much about what everybody else thinks.

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50 minutes


The Teenage Brain

About the Fellow

Dr. Wouter van den Bos

Dr Wouter van den Bos runs the Connected Minds Lab, which focuses on the development of learning and decision-making, and how they're affected by changes in brain function.

The Teenage Brain Collection

Adolescence is characterised by behaviours and emotions that seem inexplicable to us as adults, from mood swings and risk-taking to peer pressure. This collection is a deep dive into what makes the teenage brain so unique.