The Invisible Force of Peer Pressure
By Yuan Cheng
Social and Neurological Causes
Affects people of different age groups and genders differently
“Peer pressure” is a term heard in various classrooms and families. It defines the explicit and implicit influence that one’s peers or social circle has on them. Everyone peer pressures and is peer pressured, knowingly or unknowingly. There is, however, more than just a social aspect to peer pressuring. There are scientific causes which explain the power we have over others and the approval we seek in group-settings.
Implicit and explicit social biases and views can contribute to peer pressure. Both explicit criticism and bullying from peers can cause someone to change the way they behave and the opinions they have on things. Implicit judgment—what people think others may think of them and their traits—also leads someone to alter the way they act as well.
Peer pressure is closely connected to the part of the brain that is in charge of rewards—the striatum. The increase in the striatum’s activities is linked to peer comparisons.
Research indicates that because boys tend to hang out in larger groups during any singular occasion than girls and girls tend to split off into subgroups within the larger friend group, peer pressure amongst girls tend to be from individuals but peer pressure amongst boys are more hinged on being accepted by the whole group.
Age does not limit how someone is affected by others, because everyone cares about the opinions of others no matter their age. Teenagers, with susceptibility to peer pressure spiking around the age of 14, are more prone to peer interference than adults because of how responsive their striatum is and how connected they are to social trends. To teens, the decisions they make and the risks they take can variate in the presence of a singular peer.
Activities and habits, both positive and negative, trickle down from those at the top of the social hierarchy to those who are positioned lower. And people tend to derive more pleasure when they triumph over a peer than when they triumph alone.
A stronger and healthier relationship with one’s parents does attenuate the effects of negative peer pressures.