Is it all in the reward? Peers influence risk-taking behaviour in young adulthood

Renate Reniers, Amanda Beavan, Louise Keogan, Andrea Furneaux, Samantha Mayhew, Stephen Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
361 Downloads (Pure)


The presence of peers is suggested to increase risk-taking behaviour by heightening response to reward. The current study investigated this using a computerised financial risk-taking task which was performed twice by a group of young adults (n=201, median age 19.8 years); once alone and once while in the presence of two peers. An overall increase in risk-taking was observed when with peers compared to when alone (CHANGE). CHANGE was positively associated with self-reported levels of reward responsiveness and fun seeking while older age and lack of perseverance were associated with reduced CHANGE. The association between risk-taking when with peers and both resistance to the influence of peers and age was indirect through reward responsiveness. Reward responsiveness was positively associated with impulsiveness. Only in those who showed a peer-related decrease in risk-taking (1/3 of participants), risk-taking in the presence of peers was associated with increased impulsiveness. The current findings suggest an important role for reward responsiveness in
risk-taking behaviour and demonstrate the influence of peers. Increased understanding of these processes has direct implications for prevention and intervention efforts. Placing risk-taking behaviour within varying (social) contexts with an eye for differences in personality, development and emotions provides ample scope for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276–295
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date16 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • risk-taking
  • young adult
  • peer influence
  • reward
  • age
  • behavioural control


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