Lesson

"The Science of Decision Making and Peer Pressure"

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One of the biggest challenges teens face is standing up to peer pressure. This article helps explain why by describing the science of how the developing teen brain reacts to both rewards and peers. We build on this understanding by highlighting teen risk taking when driving with passengers. Together, this article and lesson will help your students understand how their brains make decisions, the influence of their peers on those decisions, and what they can do to better navigate peer-pressure situations.

MATERIALS:

Lesson:
Download a PDF version of this lesson page and accompanying work sheet.

Student Article/Informational Text:
Students will gain a scientific understanding of how the developing teen brain reacts to both rewards and peers, as well as explore the real-world implications for teen risk taking when driving with passengers.

> HTML version
> PDF version
> Digital interactive version
> Leveled version (PDF) - grades 4-5 reading level

Student Work Sheet:
The work sheet gives students an opportunity to take what they learned from the article and apply it to a real-life peer-pressure situation they might face. An answer key is included in the “Additional Tools” document below.

> PDF version
> HTML version

Additional Tools (PDF):
Grade-tiered resources to support teaching the lesson and student article:

  • Expanded Answer Key for Critical-Thinking Questions and Work Sheet
  • Tiered Adaptations of Critical-Thinking Questions
  • Academic and Domain-Specific Vocabulary Lists
  • Additional Writing Prompts
  • Expanded Paired-Text Reading Suggestions
  • Expanded Standards Charts for Grades 6-12



STANDARDS:

SUBJECT COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS NEXT
GENERATION
SCIENCE
STANDARDS
NATIONAL SCIENCE
EDUCATION STANDARDS
NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR THE SOCIAL STUDIES
Science Literacy RI.1 Cite textual evidence LS1.A Structure and Function Structure and Function in Living Things Individual Development and Identity
English Language Arts RI.2 Central idea and details LS1.D Information Processing Personal and Community Health
Health/Life Skills W.1 Write arguments



LESSON:

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS:

1) Why do teens have a stronger emotional reaction to their peers than adults or children do? Cite examples from the article. (During adolescence, the reward center of teens’ brains has more dopamine receptors and is more likely to react strongly to the positive feelings produced by being around peers. Rejection by peers causes a bigger response in the areas of teens’ brains that govern negative emotions.)

2) What are two pieces of evidence from the article that suggest that teens make riskier decisions when they are with their friends than when they are alone? (In Steinberg’s study, the teen drivers ran more yellow lights when their friends were watching than when they were alone. Teen drivers engage in riskier behavior if other teens are in the car.)




WRITING PROMPTS:

Instruct students to use evidence from the article in their responses to the writing prompts.

  • Grades 6-8: The decision-making process in teens is strongly affected by rewards and peers. How might this impact teens in both positive and negative ways?
  • Grades 9-10: Peer pressure can challenge teens to take beneficial risks, or it can drive them to make decisions they regret. How can teens prepare themselves to resist negative peer pressure yet remain open to positive influences?
  • Grades 11-12: Today’s teens don’t only interact in person. How do you think peer influence through social media and texting might impact teens’ decision making, and what positive and negative consequences could result? Consider what you have learned about how the presence of teens can impact risky behavior.



PAIRED READING:




ADDITIONAL SOURCES:




RESOURCES AND SUPPORT: