PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reckless Teen Behavior May Be Evolutionary Advantage

(Flickr/eskimo_jo)

When you think of teenagers, words like “responsible” or “careful” probably aren’t the first to come to mind. Teens often drive fast, experiment with drugs, don’t get enough sleep, and seem to only care about hanging out with their friends.

But new research about teens’ brains shows that their hunger for risk may be a trait that has evolved over time to help them succeed at such a tumultuous time in their lives.

Science reporter David Dobbs says that during teenage years there are three traits that are at their peak: A taste for risk, a desire for novelty and a need to be around their same-aged peers.

“Those are all traits that are tremendously useful to humanity, essential to our success,” he told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

“If you look at the task we face at that age, which is to move from the safety of home and out into the world into a bunch of unknowns, that’s the scariest, hardest thing we do in our lives. So you would need tremendous motivation– and that’s what the taste for risk-taking and the desire for novelty and same-aged peers provides,” he said.

Dobbs is careful to point out that these traits are not all good. As Dobbs puts it in his article, young people between 15-25 die “of accidents of almost every sort at high rates.”

“When we say something is adaptive from an evolutionary point of view, it does not mean it’s always good. It means it’s good more often than it’s bad,” he said.

Guest:

  • David Dobbs, science writer for National Geographic

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

Peter O’Dowd follows the route of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train 150 years ago, to look at modern-day race relations and Lincoln's legacy.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

May 21 5 Comments

YouTube Sensation Publishes Her First Cookbook

Maangchi's career was born when her son suggested she start making videos of herself cooking Korean dishes.

May 21 15 Comments

UC’s Napolitano Speaks Out On High Cost Of Public Ed, Anti-Semitism On Campus

Janet Napolitano talks about a plan to freeze in-state tuition, and campus protests against Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

May 20 Comment

‘Finding The Good’ Through Obituary Writing

Journalist Heather Lende has been writing obituaries in the small town of Haines, Alaska, for 20 years.

May 20 3 Comments

Pandas’ Bamboo Diet May Endanger Them

New research examining the genetics of panda waste shows they would be better suited to eat meat than plants.