When adolescents focus to perform cognitive tasks or inhibit impulses they seem to engage similar brain
circuitry as adults. However, that circuitry is strongly affected by the addition of rewarding and aversive
stimuli, resulting in differences in their brain activity and, therefore, their behavior. Some of the findings
from the research articles include the following.
*Adolescents appear to have heightened sensitivity to rewards that use different brain circuitry than children or adults.
*Cognitive research has shown that adolescents are particularly receptive to gustatory, thrill-seeking, and monetary rewards.
*To a much greater extent than adults, adolescent neural responses to rewards and aversive stimuli are heightened by the mere awareness that they are being watched by someone else.
*Brain processes for supporting a single controlled response may be well developed even before adolescence, but the ability to engage that control is still developing.
*The ability of brain circuitry to monitor performance, identify errors, and then adjust subsequent performance to maintain control over time is still maturing in adolescence.
*Adolescents have heightened social sensitivity that results in intensified investment of attention, salience, and emotion when evaluating social situations.
*Cognitive research suggests that adolescents have a heightened awareness of social cues and heightened sensitivity to social exclusion.
*Cognitive research also suggests that adolescents are more sensitive to real or imagined social evaluations of them by others, assigning those evaluations greater elaboration and emotional import than adults or children.
*Parts of the brain that are highly sensitive to pubertal hormones include those most critical for detecting salient social information; assigning hedonic, aversive, or emotional value; social cognition; and using that
information to guide learning and behavior.
*Adolescents have much more difficulty than adults interpreting other people’s responses when their thoughts and intentions are relatively complex.
Of course, their motivation and behavioral responses in reaction to all of these differences in how their brains are wired is influenced by their personalities, their values, and environmental factors such as
the kinds of support they get from parents, teachers and peers. If you would like to see the hard science behind these findings, check out the website at http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/current.
As a note, we are considering the addition of a page page on our motivation website that is dedicated to adolescence. Be sure to share your suggestions and insights about what you would like to see on this
page. You can do so by adding your comment to this blog or by emailing Dr. Goff directly at email@example.com.