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Adolescent decision making and risk behavior: A neurobiological approach

Jennifer M Wolff, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In this study, the neurobiological theory of adolescent decision making and risk taking and the dual-process decision making theory were tested in a sample of college students. Participants responded to questions in a survey about decision making style, socio-emotional processes, cognitive control processes, and deviant peers. The goals of the research were to test the relation between decision making processes (intuitive and deliberative) and risk behaviors, to test the potential overlap between intuitive and deliberative decision making as described in the more traditional dual-process models and the socio-emotional and cognitive control systems of the neurobiological model, and to extend the neurobiological model by examining the role of individual and social contextual factors in risk behavior. This research is intended to strengthen, expand, and improve our existing knowledge of youth decision making and risk behavior. Results showed that cognitive control processes and deliberative decision making were related to each other whereas socio-emotional processes and intuitive decision making were not. Deliberative decision making was related to risk behaviors whereas intuitive decision making was not. Finally, self-regulation and deviant peers moderated the relations between some of the socio-emotional or cognitive control constructs and risk behavior. Results are discussed in terms of their theoretical and practical implications as well as future directions for research.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Wolff, Jennifer M, "Adolescent decision making and risk behavior: A neurobiological approach" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3504214.