A Little Science and The Teenage Mind

Cognitive, Social and Neuropsychology of the Teenage Mind

A Little Science and The Teenage Mind

Kaylee Rodrigues-Vincent

The teenage years in one’s life are the hardest. You are going through hormonal and emotional changes. You are discovering yourself and your identity. But you don’t completely understand yourself yet. Everything can still be confusing and chaotic. And that’s okay. But why do we go through this? How can we get through this confusion and chaos in this phase of our lives? Hopefully I can help you understand.

First, before we get into the reasoning of the teenagers mind we must understand the human brain. The brain is extremely complex and can be confusing. It’s structure consists of the Cerebrum and it’s parts: the Frontal Lobe, Broca Area, Motor Strip, Sensory Strip, Parietal Lobe, Wernicke’s Area, Temporal Lobe and Occipital Lobe. And we can’t forget the cerebellum and brainstem. Now you may be familiar with some of these terms I just listed or maybe you are completely baffled and confused with what you read just now. Don’t worry, I won’t make a long boring speech on each section’s functioning and complexities (but if you want to read more on the anatomy of the brain and its functioning I recommend reading the  article found here: https://www.mayfieldclinic.com/pe-anatbrain.htm

 The cerebrum is the one I will be focusing on because it is where personality, behavior, emotions, speech, judgment, planning, problem solving, concentration, self awareness and a lot more happens. The cerebrum is the biggest part of the brain. It plays a big role in everything we do so I want you to be familiar with this term as I will be referring to it often in this article. 

A lot of change occurs in the brain during our teenage years. In academic life and social life teenagers have a great urge to explicate who they are, where their place is in this world and basically just define themselves. They try to find and/or change their identity. This makes them try a lot of different things because they don’t know what they want yet. Teenagers can also be influenced by their peers around them. They see their friends doing something or having something like a certain fashion style for example, and they want to be like that. Another way teenagers seek to find their identity is to be or not to be like their parents. These can have both positive and negative effects. 

The personalities, beliefs and social interactions you have with the people around you have a big impact on your subjective view of life. Especially during your teenage years. You pick up on these social influences in your Frontal Lobe of your Cerebrum. If you receive a good subjective influence from the people around you during your teenage years, you will take that with you through your adulthood and it will have a good influence on your personality and character. If you have received a negative and destructive influence from the people around you during your teenage years, then it will also affect your views in adulthood. These influences and their impacts affect us most during our adolescence years because it is natural for us to look up to more experienced people to be our role models and show us how to live in this world. 

Emotions that teenagers go through can be like a roller coaster ride. This all comes from the limbic system deep within the cerebrum. Emotional development is important during our adolescence years. You can feel emotions simultaneously; exuberant one moment and gloom the next moment. As a piece of advice, try to know and precisely label clear emotions that you have because you will tend to use successful coping mechanisms in difficult times. This is a sign of good mental health because instead of turning to alternatives like drugs or alcohol, you are choosing healthier ways to deal with your emotions.  

There is a Latin expression that is used in Cognitive psychology: “Cogito Ergo Sum.” It means “I think, therefore I am.” “Cogito” is the root word for Cognitive if you haven’t already noticed. What this phrase is referring to is the act of thinking. How do people think and why do they think? What is thinking exactly? Cognitive processing is the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. As a teenager with a lot of things going on in life, you may overthink. You probably also think about thinking; this is meta-cognition and it is one form of overthinking. A steroid hormone called Cortisol is the primary supervillain that is responsible for unhealthy overthinking. It is released in the hypothalamus which is located in the cerebrum. Now my point here is to give you strategies to reduce overthinking. Meditation, focusing on what you can control, practicing being optimistic on a regular basis, identifying your fears, and such are ways to stop overthinking.