Public Release: 

How teens learn about others

Ongoing development of brain regions that support understanding of other people may underlie learning differences between adolescents and adults

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: A. Before each run participants were introduced to the person whose preferences they would subsequently rate. Adults and adolescents rated preferences of persons from their own peer group on a 10-point... view more 

Credit: Rosenblau, Korn & Pelphrey, JNeurosci (2017)

Despite their intense interest in other people, adolescents are slower to learn about the preferences of their peers than adults, according to results from a new approach to studying social development published in JNeurosci.

Understanding the mental states of others has been extensively studied in children, yet the development of this theory of mind in teenagers as they transition into the socially complex world of adults and the brain network supporting this ability is not well understood.

In this study, healthy adolescents and adults performed a task in which they learned about a peer's preferences for activities, fashion and food items from a previously conducted survey of individuals not involved in the study. Comparing 13 computational models to explain participants' behavior, Gabriela Rosenblau and colleagues found that both adolescents and adults use a combination of their own preferences and feedback about how their peer actually rated each item to predict their peer's preferences for future items. Adolescents, however, were less accurate in predicting their peer's preferences and had lower learning rates than adults. Ongoing development of the fusiform cortex and medial prefrontal cortex during adolescence may underlie these differences.

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Article: A computational account of optimizing social predictions reveals that adolescents are conservative learners in social contexts

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1044-17.2017 Corresponding author: Gabriela Rosenblau (The George Washington University and Children's National Health System, Washington, DC, USA), grosenblau@gwu.edu

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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