Analogue Study of Peer Influence on Risk-Taking Behavior in Older Adolescents
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- Reynolds, E.K., MacPherson, L., Schwartz, S. et al. Prev Sci (2014) 15: 842. doi:10.1007/s11121-013-0439-x
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This experimental study aimed to examine whether adolescents act in a riskier manner in the presence of peers and whether peer presence alone influences risk behavior or if a direct influence process is necessary. Utilizing a behavioral task assessing risk-taking, 183 older adolescents (18–20 year olds) came to the laboratory alone once and then were randomized to one of three conditions as follows: alone, peers present, and peers encouraging. An interaction was found such that at baseline, there were no significant differences between the three conditions, but at the experimental session, there was a significant increase in risk task scores particularly for the encouraging condition. These findings challenge proposed models of the interaction between peer influence and risk taking by providing evidence that adolescents take more risks when being encouraged by peers, but that the presence of peers on its own does not lead to more risks than when completing the task alone.