Teenagers and Risk Assessment
In an article on auto-asphyxiation, there’s commentary on teens and risk:
But the new debate also coincides with a reassessment of how teenagers think about risk. Conventional wisdom said adolescents often flirted with the edges of danger because they felt invulnerable.
Newer studies have dismissed that notion. They say that most teenagers are quite cool-headed in assessing risk and reward—and that is what sometimes gets them in trouble. Adults, by contrast, are more likely to rely on experience or gut feelings than rational calculation.
Asked whether it would ever make sense to play Russian roulette for a million dollars, for example, most adults immediately say no, said Valerie F. Reyna, a professor of human development and psychology at Cornell University.
But when Professor Reyna asks teenagers the same question in intervention sessions to teach smarter risk-taking behavior, they often stop to calculate or debate, she said—what exactly would the odds be of getting the chamber with the bullet?
“I use the example to try to get them to see that thinking rationally like that doesn’t always lead to rational choices,” she said.
Of course, reality is always more complicated. We can invent fictional scenarios where it makes sense to play that game of Russian roulette. Imagine you have terminal cancer, and that million dollars would make a huge difference to your survivors. You might very well take the risk.