You view a screen on which the red crosshairs at the center occasionally disappear just as a light flickers elsewhere on the screen.Your instructions are to not look at the light and instead to look in the opposite direction. It's a tough assignment, since flickering lights naturally draw our attention."Well," I huffed, sensing an opportunity to finally yell at him, "what would you call it? " 'Reckless' sounds like you're not paying attention. I made a deliberate point of doing this on an empty stretch of dry interstate, in broad daylight, with good sight lines and no traffic. —and revealed an answer that surprised almost everyone.Our brains, it turned out, take much longer to develop than we had thought.And by age 20, their brains respond to this task much as the adults' do.
Abigail Baird, a Vassar psychologist who studies teens, calls this neural gawkiness—an equivalent to the physical awkwardness teens sometimes display while mastering their growing bodies.
At the same time, the frontal areas develop greater speed and richer connections, allowing us to generate and weigh far more variables and agendas than before.
When this development proceeds normally, we get better at balancing impulse, desire, goals, self-interest, rules, ethics, and even altruism, generating behavior that is more complex and, sometimes at least, more sensible.
Although you know your teenager takes some chances, it can be a shock to hear about them. Through the ages, most answers have cited dark forces that uniquely affect the teen.
One fine May morning not long ago my oldest son, 17 at the time, phoned to tell me that he had just spent a couple hours at the state police barracks. He did not object when I told him he'd have to pay the fines and probably for a lawyer. My son's high-speed adventure raised the question long asked by people who have pondered the class of humans we call teenagers: What on Earth was he doing? But even that is just another way of wondering, What is wrong with these kids? Aristotle concluded more than 2,300 years ago that "the young are heated by Nature as drunken men by wine." A shepherd in William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale wishes "there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting." His lament colors most modern scientific inquiries as well. Stanley Hall, who formalized adolescent studies with his 1904 Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education, believed this period of "storm and stress" replicated earlier, less civilized stages of human development.