Here’s the pull quote: “young teenagers ran about 40 percent more yellow lights and had 60 percent more crashes when they knew their friends were watching” from an amusing article about an experiment into the effect of friends on behavior. The experiment involved two groups – teens and adults – in two settings – alone and with friends watching. Actually – in conformance with standard practice – experimenters lied; the friends weren’t actually watching.
This is a very nice result, but it seems to me that the article, and presumably the experimenters, didn’t spin up enough insta-theories for why there might be this difference.
The motivation for playing this game presumably falls into three buckets – playing by the rules to maximize your score and cash reward, having fun, and finally using the game experience as an token in your social relationships.
The player is juggling these motivations as he tunes the style of his play. I think that teens are more aware of these three sources of reward than adults are, having played more games, and more games in a social setting. Further I think that teens have a more nuanced awareness that games are, well games; and are more likely to discount the point/cash reward aspect of the game. They are more playful.
Of course the experimenters did this entire exercise inside a brain scanner. The data shows the teens had more fun than the adults.
So, the articles conclusion, that this shows how peer pressure leads teens to take more risks, seems excessive to me.