Published: September 25, 2019

Tymula, A. (2019). An experimental study of adolescent behavior under peer observation: Adolescents are more impatient and inconsistent, not more risk-taking, when observed by peers. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.


Agnieszka Tymula


The majority of deaths in adolescence have been attributed to “risky” behaviors (Eaton et al., 2012) and therefore could be avoided had the adolescent made a different decision. In this paper, using two laboratory experiments we assess the impact of peer observation (a possible culprit of bad decision-making in adolescence) on the behavior of adolescents in risky conditions. We carefully separate risk attitudes from impatience, present bias, ambiguity attitudes, and inconsistency and in contradiction to what has been suggested in developmental psychology, we find that adolescents’ risk and ambiguity attitudes are not affected by observation. Instead, when observed by peers, adolescents become more impatient and inconsistent.