Washington, Oct 16: The unexpected lures adolescents to greater risks than younger children and adults, not because they are attracted to danger, says a study.
For instance, adolescents have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases and criminal behaviours of any age group, and even drive faster than adults, resulting in death and injury rate that is 200 percent greater than for younger peers, says a Yale School of Medicine study.
Ifat Levy, assistant professor in comparative medicine and neurobiology at Yale, and colleagues explored risk-taking by studying a group of adolescents and a group of mid-life adults, the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences reported.
The 65 participants, aged between 12 and 50 years, were asked to make a series of financial decisions in a lottery, each with varying degrees of risk.
In some trials, subjects were told the exact probabilities of winning a lottery.
In separate, ambiguous lotteries, they were not given the precise probabilities of winning, making the level of risk uncertain, according to a Yale statement.
Levy and her team found that when risks were precisely stated, adolescents avoided them at least as much – and sometimes more – than adults.
But adolescents were much more tolerant of ambiguity in situations where the likelihood of winning and losing was unknown. When the risk involved was not precisely known, they were more willing to accept them, compared to adults.
This makes sense biologically, Levy said: “Young organisms need to be open to the unknown in order to gain information about their world.”
“From a policy perspective it means that informing adolescents as much as possible about the likelihoods for the costs and benefits of risky behaviours may effectively reduce their engagement in such behaviours.”