Social influences on decision-making are particularly pronounced during adolescence and have both protective and detrimental effects. To evaluate how responsiveness to social signals may be linked to substance use in adolescents, we used functional neuroimaging and a gambling task in which adolescents who have and have not used substances (substance-exposed and substance-naïve, respectively) made choices alone and after observing peers’ decisions. Using quantitative model-based analyses, we identify behavioral and neural evidence that observing others’ safe choices increases the subjective value and selection of safe options for substance-naïve relative to substance-exposed adolescents. Moreover, the effects of observing others’ risky choices do not vary by substance exposure. These results provide neurobehavioral evidence for a role of positive peers (here, those who make safer choices) in guiding adolescent real-world risky decision-making.
adolescent, peer influence, decision-making, social influence, substance use