Chapter

Risky and impulsive components of adolescent decision making

B.J. Casey, Todd A. Hare and Adriana Galván

in Decision Making, Affect, and Learning

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199600434
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600434.003.0020

Series: Attention and Performance

Risky and impulsive components of adolescent decision making

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Adolescence is a developmental period which is often characterized as a time of impulsive and risky choices leading to increased incidence of unintentional injuries and violence, alcohol and drug abuse, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Traditional neurobiological and cognitive explanations for such suboptimal decisions have failed to account for nonlinear changes in behaviour observed during adolescence, relative to childhood and adulthood. This chapter provides a biologically plausible conceptualization of the neural mechanisms underlying these nonlinear changes in behaviour, of a heightened sensitivity to incentives while impulse control is still relatively immature during this period. Recent human imaging and animal studies provide a biological basis for this view, suggesting differential development of limbic reward systems relative to top-down control systems during adolescence, relative to childhood and adulthood. Finally, a mathematical model is provided to further distinguish these constructs of impulsivity and risky choices to further characterize developmental and individual differences in suboptimal decisions during this period.

Keywords: adolescence; decision making; neural mechanisms; limbic reward systems; control systems; impulsivity; choice

Chapter.  9868 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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