Impulsiveness: With increasing testosterone levels, youthful impatience grows
Patience is certainly not for everyone. Teenagers in particular can often not go fast enough. Researchers have now found out why. Accordingly, the surge in testosterone levels during puberty is responsible for youthful impatience.
The art of waiting
The hectic world of work and constant availability via smartphones and the like have meant that many people have forgotten the art of waiting. Some people just can't go fast enough. It is anathema for them to have to wait for others or to queue at the cash register. But it is worth doing something about impatience. However, this is particularly difficult for young people. Researchers have now found reasons for this.
Rise in testosterone levels during puberty
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the University of California, Berkeley, blame the surge in testosterone levels during puberty for youthful impatience.
In a study published in the journal "Psychoneuroendocrinology", the researchers examined the role of hormones in impulsive decisions for the first time.
Since boys are more impulsive than girls, the study focused on examining boys between the ages of 11 and 14, the institute reports.
More receptive to immediate rewards
To determine their puberty status, a total of 72 adolescents submitted two morning saliva samples to determine their testosterone level. In order to learn more about their impulsive behavior, the study participants also completed a decision test.
They had to make a total of 80 decisions about a hypothetical amount of money that was offered differently near or far in the future. So they could choose between an early, smaller amount of money or a higher amount of money in the distant future.
The study shows that a majority of adolescents are more receptive to immediate rewards. On average, around two thirds of the study participants opted for the smaller amount of money, which was quicker to get.
Scientists associate sensitivity to immediate rewards with the effects of testosterone on certain reward-related brain regions, such as the striatum.
The purely chronological age of the study participants cannot explain this sensitivity. Only with increasing age is the timing of the reward less important.
Reward good behavior in the short term
"Our study makes it clear that adolescent age - measured in terms of physical and hormonal maturity - should be taken into account in development-psychologically oriented studies," explains lead author Corinna Laube from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
"Developmental differences can often not be determined by their chronological age."
The study is a further step towards a better understanding of the impulsive decision-making behavior of adolescents and complements the results of a previous study by the institute.
“Impulsiveness is part of growing up and is part of a healthy development. Young people thus acquire new skills that they need as an independent individual. But young people can also harm themselves with their impulsive behavior, ”says co-author Wouter van den Bos from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
From an educational perspective, it may be advisable against the background of the study results available to reward young people's good behavior on a short-term basis instead of referring to future rewards. (ad)