Special issue on the teenage brain: Sensitivity to social evaluation

Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2013 Apr 1;22(2):121-127. doi: 10.1177/0963721413476512.


Relative to childhood, peer relationships take on a heightened importance during adolescence. Might adolescents be highly attuned to information that concerns when and how they are being evaluated, and what their peers think of them? This review evaluates how continuing brain development - which influences brain function - partially explains or reflects adolescents' attunement to social evaluation. Though preliminary, evidence is mounting to suggest that while processing information relevant to social evaluation and the internal states of other people, adolescents respond with greater emotional intensity and corresponding nonlinear recruitment of socioaffective brain circuitry. This review highlights research findings that relate trajectories of brain development and social behavior, and discusses promising avenues of future research that will inform how brain development might lead adolescents sensitized to social evaluation.

Keywords: Adolescence; brain; development; evaluation; rejection; social.