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Teenagers Prone to Feeling Self-Conscious, Study Reports

Update Date: Jul 02, 2013 08:31 PM EDT
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Researchers and parents can all agree that the teenage years are some of the most difficult times for both parents and children. Teenagers go through high school, where peer pressure and bullying are at their worst. These social issues that teenagers go through could result in poor choices, which could strain the parent-child relationship. In a new study, researchers decided to look into how teenagers respond to others. The team, headed by Harvard University's Leah Somerville, found that at this stage in time, the brain responses tied to self-consciousness are at its peak.

"Our study identifies adolescence as a unique period of the lifespan in which self-conscious emotion, physiological reactivity, and activity in specific brain areas converge and peak in response to being evaluated by others," Somerville said reported by Medical Xpress.

The research team recruited 69 participants who were from eight to 23-years-old. The participants were asked to come into the lab so that the researchers could measure individual emotional, physiological, and neural responses when they were placed under minimal social evaluation. The social evaluation part of the experiment was conducted by placing the individual in front of a camera that had three light settings indicating that the camera was "off," "on," or "warming up." When the camera was on, the individuals were told that some one of the same sex and age were watching them. There was no actual person watching.

"We were concerned about whether simply being looked at was a strong enough 'social evaluation to evoke emotional, physiological and neural responses. Our findings suggest that being watched, and to some extend anticipating being watched, were sufficient to elicit self-conscious emotional responses at each level of measurement," Somerville said.

The researchers found that the participants reported feelings of embarrassment and physiological arousal. The researchers found that there was increased connectivity between the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and the striatum. The researchers believe that this heightened level of activity could be tied to why teenagers become more self-conscious around others, which results in riskier behaviors.

The findings were published in Psychological Science

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