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“Adolescents cannot feel the future,” was the best take-home message from Dr. Abagail Baird and the Teen Brain Symposium sponsored by the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, earlier this month.
Humor and insight were the order of the day as Baird provided perspective into why teenagers do “stupid stuff.” The truth is there are physical differences in the adolescent decision making process, which make it unique.
The short answer is that the portion of the brain called the frontal lobe hasn’t fully developed yet.
“The frontal lobe can think about things in the future you haven’t done,” Baird said. “Your brain gives you constant information about things you haven’t experienced.”
As an adult, the brain automatically considers situations and how they are either good or bad. When teenagers appear not to be thinking about a decision, it is a actually just a longer process.
The bad news is that sometimes a decision must be made in a split second. For the teenage brain, if time isn’t permitted, Baird said, “feeling is quicker than thinking.” So while it may appear that teens aren’t thinking at all, their life experience doesn’t lend an immediate answer to help make the decision.
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