August 9, 2022

What one developmental researcher has learned from studies on young people’s risk-taking behavior, reasoning and more

By Tim Vernimmen

Adolescence is often portrayed as a period of struggle and friction, filled to the brim with exhilarating ups and depressing downs. Young people’s behavior tends to be stereotyped as self-absorbed and impulsive. But how accurate is this picture, and what might explain it?

Developmental neuroscientist Eveline Crone, based at Erasmus University Rotterdam, has studied adolescents, defined by researchers as people ages 10 to 24, for more than 20 years.

She has gradually expanded her interest from the study of the many changes happening in adolescent brains to include her study subjects’ own views and experiences. This has helped to enrich her earlier findings on how young brains learn, produce emotions, process rewards and account for the perspectives of other people. It also provides new inspiration for adults trying to help them.

To study adolescents, Crone visualizes their brain activity while they are engaged in various tasks and games on computer screens: ones designed to assess behaviors and attitudes toward things such as risk and reward, how they think about and are influenced by others, and more. She supplements these studies with other methods such as surveys and youth panels — and, these days, consults young people for their input from the moment the study is designed.

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