Are there really differences in an average teenager's level of motivation and a twenty-something? Answer: Yes. Below, researchers at Stanford found that teenagers had lower levels of brain activation in response to monetary incentives, while twenty-somethings were more robust.
In the figure, it also look a little like 20's showed great responses at the time of receiving rewards, but it did not meet statistical significance. The key conclusion was that adolescents had a harder time activating their brain's motivational circuitry than young adults.
There may be many nodding heads out there, but it's a good reminder to provide strong emotional support to our teens. Adolescence is a very traumatic time for many as they desire support for autonomy, they struggle for acceptance, and may waiver on feelings of competence and self-esteem...and the biology tells us that it really may be harder for them to anticipate gains and become motivated.
Teens, 20's, and fMRI of Motivation
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