The Hard Facts: Peer Pressure Is Still In Effect

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“A new USC study explains why people take stupid chances when all of their friends are watching that they would never take by themselves. According to the study, the human brain places more value on winning in a social setting than it does on winning when you’re alone.” (“Peer pressure? It’s Hardwired Into Our Brains, Study Finds”; 9/11/2011)

Bottom line: If you thought peer pressure faded with adolescence, think again.

How does this translate to Friendship Challenge week? Easy. As the younger me might have said (cue whiney voice): Everybody’s doing it!

Of course we all like to think that we’re too mature to let our pals pressure us into doing something stupid, but this research shows that friends don’t necessarily need to purposefully egg you on. Their mere presence might be enough to give you that extra nudge.

And, according to researchers, activities feel less risky when we are surrounded by friends. “In private environments, losing can more easily be life-threatening. With no social support network in place, a bad gamble can spell doom.”

Now, you may have noticed in the quote up top that this study talks largely about “stupid chances.” Let me be clear about one thing: Asking out a new friend is not a stupid chance. It’s a great chance! The worst that can happen, if we want to go there, is that she says no. And maybe looks at you funny. Well, sure, that could be embarrassing for, like, a minute. But that passes. Quickly.

The best that can happen though is that she says yes, you totally hit it off, and you come back to this blog a year from now and you are someone who found your new BFF. That could happen.

I’d like to say I’m above peer pressure to encourage my readers to do something. But you can’t argue with science, folks.

So won’t you ask out that awesome potential BFF in your book club? At work? In the kid pick-up line after school?

Everybody’s doing it.

Have you found yourself doing things because you’re surrounded by friends that you wouldn’t do otherwise? Do you think peer pressure still exists? And did mine work??


Filed under The Search

2 responses to “The Hard Facts: Peer Pressure Is Still In Effect

  1. Robin

    I met someone in a writing class over a year ago – we hit it off and talked about getting together but it never happened. She seems pretty busy w/two kids, new husband etc. I am wondering if I should give it another try and email her? All my friends have moved and I really need to meet some new people! I’m trying to get the nerve to join a book club or something too…it’s hard to feel like I’m starting all over!

    • Yes! I say definitely email her. She’ll probably be so thrilled to hear from you, and be happy for a break for some girl time. I know, it’s so hard, but it’s worth it!

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