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Study Up For 'Think': Shaping The Minds Of Adolescents

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The adolescent brain is surprisingly malleable, according to Steinberg, and influences during this age period can affect later outcomes in life.

There are many factors that come into play while growing up. Teenagers have a lot to think about when it comes to the future, and as recent studies have proven, the crucial influence in determining life outcomes takes place during the adolescent years. Psychology professor Laurence Steinberg joins Krys Boyd at 1 p.m. on Think to discuss these findings and how parents can update their understanding of younger generations.

Steinberg is a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at Temple University and his new book is Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence. His current projects looks at developmental psychology and neuroscience in adolescents -- in particular, decision-making, peer influences, patterns among juvenile offenders, and positive methods of psychology. Through his research, Steinberg takes into account public policy, cultural consequences, and the significance of genetics.

Take a look at the book’s introduction, available through Steinberg’s website. In the excerpt, he talks about the stereotypes of youths, shares an anecdote that explores the confusion behind the actions of a friend’s teenage daughter, and emphasizes the importance of effective parenting techniques.

Most psychological processes that affect decision-making take place between the ages of 10 and 30, extending the period of adolescence. In April, Steinberg wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, where he looked at a previous study he had done on peer effects on teenagers’ decision-making. An adolescent’s brain is sensitive to rewards in cases where they were observed by their peers, but particularly on the benefits of a risky choice, rather than the possible costs, he explained.

And in February, Steinberg provided commentary on Slate that American high schools aren’t challenging for students. Instead, teens find that the school day is a time for socializing and are spending less time on school work compared to high school students around the world. Rather than focusing on high-quality preschools, Steinberg calls for a focus on the secondary education, during a period of development that neuroscience has proven ranks second in brain malleability.

Listen to Think, Monday through Thursday at noon and 9 p.m., on KERA 90.1 FM or online through streaming.