Life is full of risks. They can range from the remote, like getting struck by lightning, to the everyday, like getting into a fender-bender on your way to class. However, some individuals actively seek-out risky activities, and according to research, that kind of behavior is more commonplace in adolescents. In fact, the military will specifically target a younger crowd when looking for recruits, not just for their physical ability, but for their increased willingness to risk their lives in combat as well. So - why do we like to take more risks when we’re young?
Scientists believe a lot of it has to do with biology and psychology. When we’re teenagers, our brains are still developing, in particular the parts that govern risk assessment and emotion. And if examined under the light of our evolutionary past, it would make sense that greater risk-taking would accompany sexual maturity.
But instead of hunting with spears or interacting with potentially hostile neighbors, humans nowadays typically get their risky-fix from other activities, like partying hard, smoking, or driving aggressively, to name just a few.
However, a recent study that examined the brains of teenagers seems to contradict the widely-held belief that thrill-seeking youth have less developed brains than their less adventurous peers. In fact, the study revealed that adolescents who thrive on dangerous activities actually exhibit more “adult-like” frontal white matter. Whether this development comes from the dangerous activity or the dangerous activity comes the development is unclear.
In general, humans are consummate risk-takers. Thankfully, we no longer have to wrestle with saber-toothed tigers to get an adrenaline rush- modern society can provide plenty of outlets for some “calculated” risk-taking. The next time you feel like doing something crazy, try a roller coaster. Or, you could take your ride out for some fast laps at a local track day. Or maybe try your hand at climbing at a nearby rock gym. The point is- there’s an underlying reason for those crazy impulses. Put them to good use.