Risk contagion by peers affects learning and decision-making in adolescents.

Andrea M.F. Reiter, Shinsuke Suzuki, John P. O'Doherty, Shu Chen Li, Ben Eppinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Adolescence is a period of life in which social influences—particularly if they come from peers—play a critical role in shaping learning and decision preferences. Recent studies in adults show evidence of a risk contagion effect; that is, individual risk preferences are modulated by observing and learning from others’ risk-related decisions. In this study, using choice data and computational modeling, we demonstrate stronger risk contagion in male adolescents when observing peers compared to nonpeers. This effect was only present when the observed peer showed risk-seeking preferences. Moreover, adolescents represented the peers’ decisions better than those of adults. Intriguingly, the degree of peer-biased risk contagion in adolescents was positively associated with real-life social integration. Contrary to previous accounts, our data suggest that peer conformity during risky decision-making in adolescence is a socially motivated, deliberative process. Susceptibility to peer influence in adolescence might be adaptive, associated with higher degrees of social functioning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1494-1504
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • adolescent development
  • conformity
  • observational learning
  • risk preference
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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