During a phone call I had with my father over the weekend, I was telling him about how I spent a part of the Labor Day weekend taking on a few of Tussey Mountain’s biking trails with some friends. Even though I made sure to tell him that I was wearing a helmet and exercised caution throughout all of the trails– he responded by saying, “Everything you like is dangerous, why don’t you try playing chess or something.” After having a good laugh with him and hanging up the phone shortly after, I realized he was right. I was also surprised that after years of mountain biking, motorcycle riding, and playing D1 rugby, I never let risk get in the way of my involvement in any of these activities. In this post, I will discuss why younger individuals love to take risks, and why Andrew was right when he told us that our intuition is quite lousy.
A picture of Philippe Petit tight rope walking between the Twin Towers in 1974. Photo taken from NYDailyNews Photo Gallery (http://goo.gl/rNtuZi)
Why do young adults and adolescents engage in risky behavior?
Whenever this question arises, it is most often answered with an explanation of, “Teenager’s minds are still developing” or simply, “Kids are stupid and have terrible intuition.” While both of these statements can be true, they do not fully explain the mechanism behind why younger individuals are more prone to partake in risky behavior. In this article from Harvard Magazine, Dr. Frances Jensen and Dr. David Urion explain that teenagers make risky decisions because of the way our brains develop. They go on to explain that the lobes of the human brain develop from back to front (posterior to anterior). This process is not fully completed until the ages of 25-30. The frontal lobe, which is responsible for critical thinking and decision making, is the most anterior lobe and is the last to develop. Their hypothesis states that because this lobe is the last to develop, it leads to highly impaired decision making in teens and young adults.
Conclusion- Is all risk taking bad? Should I take Risks?
We are always skeptical of the concept of risk as it involves the possibility of failure, which nobody likes. It gives the word a negative connotation. What many fail to consider is that there are both good and bad risks. High stakes gambling, unsafe sex, and drug use are all examples of bad risks because their positive outcomes are very unlikely and have little to no longevity. Firefighters, police officers, and servicemen all over the world risk their lives and well being for the people that they swore to protect. The founding fathers of the United States risked much more than their lives when they declared independence from Great Britain. Scientists take risks when conducting various experiments and field research, such as the Apollo missions or the Challenger disaster. These are all good risks because their positive outcomes lead to improvement of society and human technological advancement. Although these risks can lead to a negative outcome, they are a necessary step to achieving great things and improving. Taking healthy risks builds character and leads to unleashing one’s full potential. It’s not always a bad idea to occasionally step outside your comfort zone.