For years, adolescents have yawned their way through an ever-growing crop of programs designed to prevent them from engaging in “bad” or dangerous behavior. From DARE to Driver’s Ed to ‘Sex Ed’ courses that teach students to, well, not have sex, programs based on the assumption that shocking teens with the potential consequences of their actions will have a tangible effect on their behavior have uniformly failed. The problem, as Big Think’s newest guest, Laurence Steinberg, explains, has a neurological basis: adolescent minds process risk in a much different way than their adult teachers, making attempts to modify behavior through knowledge alone almost futile.
As Professor Steinberg notes, this misconception about the adolescent brain has also paved the way for a faulty and unnecessarily punitive juvenile justice system. The groundbreaking psychologist goes on to discuss the cognitive and cultural reasons behind why certain races tend to outperform others in education, as well as the unexpectedly beneficial effect that conflict has on maturity.