Impulsivity generally drops throughout life, starting at about age 10, but this love of the thrill peaks at around age 15.
And although sensation seeking can lead to dangerous behaviors, it can also generate positive ones: The urge to meet more people, for instance, can create a wider circle of friends, which generally makes us healthier, happier, safer, and more successful.
Physiology and evolutionary theory alike offer explanations for this tendency.
Physiologically, adolescence brings a peak in the brain's sensitivity to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that appears to prime and fire reward circuits and aids in learning patterns and making decisions.
S., one in three teen deaths is from car crashes, many involving alcohol. That's the conventional explanation: They're not thinking, or by the work-in-progress model, their puny developing brains fail them. As Laurence Steinberg, a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescence at Temple University, points out, even 14- to 17-year-olds—the biggest risk takers—use the same basic cognitive strategies that adults do, and they usually reason their way through problems just as well as adults.