Neural mechanisms of social influence in adolescence

B. Locke Welborn, Matthew D. Lieberman, Diane Goldenberg, Andrew J. Fuligni, Adriana Galvan, Eva H. Telzer

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During the transformative period of adolescence, social influence plays a prominent role in shaping young people’s emerging social identities, and can impact their propensity to engage in prosocial or risky behaviors. In this study, we examine the neural correlates of social influence from both parents and peers, two important sources of influence. Nineteen adolescents (age 16–18 years) completed a social influence task during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan. Social influence from both sources evoked activity in brain regions implicated in mentalizing (medial prefrontal cortex, left temporoparietal junction, right temporoparietal junction), reward (ventromedial prefrontal cortex), and self-control (right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex). These results suggest that mental state reasoning, social reward and self-control processes may help adolescents to evaluate others’ perspectives and overcome the prepotent force of their own antecedent attitudes to shift their attitudes toward those of others. Findings suggest common neural networks involved in social influence from both parents and peers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100–109
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • social influence
  • adolescence
  • functional MRI
  • mentalizing
  • self-control
  • reward

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