This reflection paper focuses on delineating the exciting topics and concepts I have learned in the course and outlines the areas that need more focus. While studying, I have learned that peer influence on adolescents and youths affects brain functioning during physical and mental activities and determines how well or worse a youth’s life progresses. I want to research more about the effects of peer pressure on brain functionality.
The exciting thing I learned was the power of peer pressure on teenagers and young adults. Age mates tremendously influence teenagers and young adults, and the decision-making process among them is primarily controlled by peer influence (Berk, 2018, pp. 296-327, 325-352); (Zaky, 2016). A series of examples that illustrate peer influence on teenage decision-making are the conversations from the WBEZ radio program that features radio host Ira Glass. In one such program, an interviewee, Kiana Jackson, confessed how a group of Ithaca girls collectively rebuked an action by a young man who “pulled down his pants and put his ass cheeks all over the girls’ car” (Glass, 2015c).
Another case in the program is where Ira Glass interviews three high school girls, Jane, Ella, and Julia. The trio agreed that posting photos on Instagram and waiting for comments and likes is a way to show togetherness, boost self-esteem, and stamping individual identity among girls (Glass, 2015 b). Also, a third example from the program details how the American society could eliminate desegregation by improving integration among peers from diverse races (Glass 2015 a). All the mentioned cases point to peer influence among youth and teenagers and how age mates can push one to act entirely unexpectedly.
Meanwhile, one area where I would like to learn more about is how peer influence affects brain activity. Research has shown that social interaction among young adults and teenagers is crucial for their physical and psychological survival (Ehmke, n.d.; Kosciw et al., 2014). Further studies reveal how peer influence affects the brain activity of teenagers and young adults more than adults (Chein et al., 2010). I am more interested in learning about how the presence of peers during activities among teenagers and young adults affects the participants’ brain activities.
In particular, I want to learn more about the brain’s specific areas that get stimulated during peer-related activities. Research shows that “adolescents’ relatively greater propensity toward risky behavior reflects the joint contribution of two brain systems that affect decision making” (Chein et al., 2010, p. 1). I know that the two areas are the orbitofrontal cortex and the ventral striatum, yet my knowledge is still limited. I am confident that gaining insight into the two areas of the brain that get stimulated during activities involving peers is essential for my personal development and relationship with peers. The tremendous influence our age mates have on us is interesting, and if such outward relations affect our brain functionality, then it is knowledge worth seeking.
The exciting thing I learned was that peer presence significantly affects youth performance in activities that involve peers. The adolescents’ social groups attach to influence what they become in the future and determine most of their actions. Since peer influence is a great determiner of an adolescent’s life, I am interested to learn how peer presence affects brain activity and precisely how it affects regions of the orbitofrontal cortex and the ventral striatum.
Berk, L. E. (2018). Exploring Lifespan Development (4th ed.). Pearson.
Chein, J., Albert, D., O’Brien, L., Uckert, K., & Steinberg, L. (2010). Peers increase adolescent risk-taking by enhancing activity in the brain’s reward circuitry. Developmental Science, 14(2). Web.
Ehmke, R. (n.d.). Dating during the pandemic: How to promote healthy relationships during a time of social distancing.
Glass, I. (2015a). The problem we all live with – transcript. This American Life. Episode.
Glass, I. (2015b). Status Update. This American Life. Episode.
Glass, I. (2015c). The problem we all live with – Part two. This American Life. Episode.
Kosciw, J. G., Palmer, N. A., & Kull, R. M. (2014). Reflecting resiliency: Openness about sexual orientation and/or gender identity and its relationship to well-being and educational outcomes for LGBT students. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55(1-2), 167–178. Web.
Zaky, A. E. (2016). Adolescence; a crucial transitional stage in human life. Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior, 04(06). Web.