Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Developmental Psychology on Risk Perception - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 123
Risk perception/adolescence/Developmental psychology/Upton: [during adolescence there is a] change in cognitive skills (…).This new way of thinking also underlies the ability of the adolescent to engage in introspection and self-reflection, which, according to some theorists, results in heightened self-consciousness (Elkind. 1978)(1). >Egocentrism/Elkind.
Elkind called this phenomenon adolescent egocentrism, suggesting that this governs the way in which adolescents think about social matters. According to this theory, adolescents believe that others are as interested in them as they are in themselves and in their sense of personal uniqueness.
Two aspects of adolescent egocentrism have been described:
- The imaginary audience: this is where adolescents believe themselves to be ‘at centre stage’. Everyone else’s attention is riveted on them.
- The personal fable: this underpins the adolescent sense of personal uniqueness and invincibility. No one else can possibly understand how they really feel; furthermore, although others may be vulnerable to misfortune, they are not.
Personal fable: An important aspect of the personal fable — a sense of invulnerability — is suggested to be the cause of adolescent risk taking: drug use, smoking, unprotected sex, drinking and so on (Alberts et al.. 2007)(2). According to Arnett (1992)(3), risky behaviour in adolescence may well result from a combination of cognitive factors: a feeling of invincibility combined with flawed probability reasoning — the idea that It will never happen to me.’



1. Elkind, D (1978) Understanding the young adolescent. Adolescence, 13(49): 127-34.
2. Alberts, A, Elkind, D and Ginsberg, S (2007). The personal fable and risk-taking in early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36: 71-6.
3. Arnett, JJ (1992) Reckless behaviour in adolescence: a developmental perspective. Developmental Review, 12: 339-73.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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