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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Apr 1;129(1-2):163-6. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.09.020. Epub 2012 Nov 3.

A preliminary experimental investigation of peer influence on risk-taking among adolescent smokers and non-smokers.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 34 Park Street, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.



Epidemiological evidence suggests that peer influence plays a significant role in a variety of adolescent risk-taking behaviors, including tobacco use. We attempted to establish this relationship in a controlled laboratory setting.


We modified the Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART) task to include a peer component to investigate whether peer influences alter risk-taking behaviors. Thirty-nine adolescents (22 smokers, 17 non-smokers) completed one experimental session during which the standard and peer BART were presented in counterbalanced order, with the dependent measures being adjusted mean number of pumps and explosions. We also examined the relationship of changes in the BART (standard-peer) to personality measures of impulsivity (BIS-11) and resistance to peer influence (RPI).


A significant interaction of BART type and smoking status was present (p=.05); specifically smokers had a greater increase in the number of explosions by 2.27 (SD=3.12) compared to an increase of .29 (SD=2.87) by non-smokers. BIS-11 scores were related to peer-influenced BART changes: those who were more impulsive experienced greater changes in risk-taking, but no similar relationships were observed for the RPI.


These results suggest that peer influences enhance risk-taking among adolescents, and that smokers may be more susceptible to these influences.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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