A study from Temple University has uncovered that while teenagers are more likely to take risks when they are with a group of friends, those friends also stimulate them to learn at a much faster pace and often encourage them to step out of their comfort zone.

The study, published in The Journal of Research on Adolescence, required 101 teenage men to take part in the Iowa Gambling Task, a psychological activity used to evaluate the decision making skills of participants, either on their own or whilst being observed by their peers.

Four decks of cards are used in the game, two of which are ‘lucky’, building long-term benefits if the player continues to draw from them, and two are ‘unlucky’, producing the opposite effect. The player can decide whether to ‘play’ or ‘pass’ a particular card, eventually uncovering which decks are lucky or unlucky, giving them the ability to pick cards from the lucky pile alone.

Researchers found that participants who played whilst their friends were overlooking took risks earlier in the game than their solo playing counterparts, and were also able to decipher which decks were lucky or unlucky at a much quicker rate.

“Risk-taking in itself is not a bad thing, and taking risks is one way we learn about the world around us,” said Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology at Temple University and lead author of the study.

“Peers may motivate each other to explore their environment in a way they might not do if they were being more cautious. Sometimes that leads to harmful consequences, but sometimes it leads to learning new things that are good, and I think that’s one of the points of the paper.

“Risk-taking is not inherently bad, and kids need to take chances and learn from their mistakes and their failures,” Steinberg concludes. “A good rule of thumb [for parents] is: protect when you must and permit when you can.”

Image via Pixabay.

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