"Teenagers are more selfish than adults because they use a different part of their brain to make decisions compared to adults, new research suggests.
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a cognitive neuroscientist from University College London, UK, asked 112 participants (aged from 8 to 37) to make decisions about other people’s welfare and timed how long it took them to respond. The questions included: 'How would your friend feel if she wasn’t invited to your party?'
She found that the response time got shorter as the participants got older, suggesting that the older people found it easier to put themselves in other people's shoes.
Blakemore found that teenagers rely on the rear part of the mentalising network to make their decisions, an area of the brain called the superior temporal sulcus. In contrast, adults use the front part, called the prefrontal cortex.
The superior temporal sulcus is involved in processing very basic behavioural actions, whereas the prefrontal cortex is involved in more complex functions such as processing how decisions affect others.
The research was presented at the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival in Norwich, UK."
I have spent the weekend thinking about this report and wondering about the different angles of it.
I work with a number of teenagers and my husband and I are around teenagers a lot. Today's teens are different from the generation that I grew up in. I'm sure my generation shocked previous generations as well.
Today my husband and I find ourselves often astounded by the behaviour of the majority of the teens we see. There is a very explicit lack of respect and regard for authority. There is no longer any fear of consequences. Of course there has always been those few trouble makers in previous generations, but the majority was respectful of adult authority.
Among the teens I know today, there is great audacity, this "I'm going to do what I want and you can't do anything about it!" attitude. It is almost like they dare you to catch them or to correct them.
Then a little light comes on.
These children are testing boundaries. That's what children do best, right? They have to test boundaries. It is in their nature. It is how they check if people care enough to be noticing them and if people care enough to keep them safe.
It used to be that much of the boundary testing went on inside the family. If it went on outside of the family then the family got involved and handled it. That isn't happening so much any more. There has been a lot of destruction of family in our society. We no longer have the safe corral for kids to grow up in. They are loose and they are running wild. (Ever tried to bridle a wild horse?!) They are no longer being taught the ideas and skills to help them develop empathy and respect and regard for authority.
When was the last time you actually heard someone reference the golden rule? These things are not taught to our children any more. How can they develop the empathetic parts of the brain if they are not given opportunity to exercise them?
This really scares me.
Teenagers can have empathy and can learn to function with it. But they must be taught in order to develop that.