Finally! Science Explains Your Self-Conscious Teen
byDeborah SkolnikJul 03, 2013
Photograph by ThinkStock
"How does my hair look?" "Mom, stop singing! You're
embarrassing me!" Teenagers are notoriously wrapped up in their image,
and painfully worried about what others think of them, especially their
friends. Now, a new study reveals at least part of the cause for all this
adolescent angst: Blame teenagers' brains, it says.
Adolescence is "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," explains
Leah Somerville of Harvard University, a psychological scientist and the
study’s lead author.
their study, the researchers gathered 69 participants ranging in age from 8 to
23 years old, telling them they’d be testing a new video camera. Subjects
watched a screen to learn when the camera was “off,” “on” or “warming up,”
having been told that a same-sex peer, roughly the same age, would be watching
the feed and would see them when the camera was powered. (In act, there was no active
The findings? Of all the subjects, it was the adolescents who had
the highest levels of embarrassment and certain other physiological changes
when they thought they were being, or about to be, watched.
Of course, teenagers face all kinds of new social pressures
as well, and those may also contribute to self-consciousness. So you may want
to stop singing in front of their friends anyway, just to give ‘em a break.