Why teenagers won’t look at you when you’re talking

Newsletter tags

Authored by

Jean Gross
02/08/2021

Scientists at the University of Kent have found that in conversation, adolescents spend 12 per cent less time looking at the other person’s face compared with young adults. But they aren’t being disrespectful. Their developing brains (executive function, located in the frontal lobes) mean they find it harder to process the demands of conversation, including memory, attention and processing content. Looking away reduces the amount of complex visual information they need to take in. Find out more at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210513142401.htm

Other interesting research finds that teenagers experience emotions more strongly than adults. Frances Jensen, author of bestseller The Teenage Brain, notes that if you show scary images to a teenager, activity in the parts of the brain that mediate fear is twice as high as in an adult. It’s probably because the connections between the frontal lobes (the bits that help us self-regulate and calm down) and the emotional regions haven’t fully matured. And the high levels of activity in the emotion areas, coupled with still-maturing frontal lobes (not so good yet at saying ‘Bad idea, don’t do that’), mean increased risk-taking and increased susceptibility to addiction in teenagers.