Preference uncertainty accounts for developmental effects on susceptibility to peer influence in adolescence
SourceNature Communications, 12, 1, (2021), article 3823
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectRadboudumc 13: Stress-related disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
Adolescents are prone to social influence from peers, with implications for development, both adaptive and maladaptive. Here, using a computer-based paradigm, we replicate a cross-sectional effect of more susceptibility to peer influence in a large dataset of adolescents 14 to 24 years old. Crucially, we extend this finding by adopting a longitudinal perspective, showing that a within-person susceptibility to social influence decreases over a 1.5 year follow-up time period. Exploiting this longitudinal design, we show that susceptibility to social influences at baseline predicts an improvement in peer relations over the follow-up period. Using a Bayesian computational model, we demonstrate that in younger adolescents a greater tendency to adopt others' preferences arises out of a higher uncertainty about their own preferences in the paradigmatic case of delay discounting (a phenomenon called 'preference uncertainty'). This preference uncertainty decreases over time and, in turn, leads to a reduced susceptibility of one's own behaviour to an influence from others. Neuro-developmentally, we show that a measure of myelination within medial prefrontal cortex, estimated at baseline, predicts a developmental decrease in preference uncertainty at follow-up. Thus, using computational and neural evidence, we reveal adaptive mechanisms underpinning susceptibility to social influence during adolescence.
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