Adolescence is a period of formative biological and social transition. Social cognitive processes involved in navigating increasingly complex and intimate relationships continue to develop throughout adolescence. Here, we describe the functional and structural changes occurring in the brain during this period of life and how they relate to navigating the social environment. Areas of the social brain undergo both structural changes and functional reorganization during the second decade of life, possibly reflecting a sensitive period for adapting to one's social environment. The changes in social environment that occur during adolescence might interact with increasing executive functions and heightened social sensitivity to influence a number of adolescent behaviors. We discuss the importance of considering the social environment and social rewards in research on adolescent cognition and behavior. Finally, we speculate about the potential implications of this research for society.

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A Lecture in Psychology: Is Adolescence a Sensitive Period for Sociocultural Processing?

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In this lecture, Ms. Mills argues that "studies about adolescence should include measures of social influence" as social context drives many of the decisions made by adolescents. She describes how the structure and function of the social brain continue to develop during the second decade of life, and explains these changes must be taken into account.

  • Article Type: Review Article
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