So (sadly?) this post is not about teen zombies. It is however about teen brains. Weird topic right? But two weeks ago I talked about being amazed by learning about baby brains and you know what? Teenage brains and how they function are pretty interesting. It also explains a lot about when I was younger.
Let’s go to the book: Sex, Brains, and Video Games by Jennifer Burek Pierce. I loved learning about Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, Harvard researcher, who looked at “teen and adult abilities to interpret facial expressions” (35). What she learned is that teens frequently couldn’t interpret nonverbal cues between fear, anger, and other emotions. In fact, the younger the teen the more they got it wrong. In contrast, adults could correct read people’s faces. The conclusion was that adults use their prefrontal cortexes to figure out expressions but teens’ weren’t involved as much. Teens therefore were using another part of their brain to figure out what they were seeing.
The author suggests that since surveys keep bringing up that teens see librarians as being mean and we’re told to be friendlier, it’s possible that teens are misreading our faces and thinking that our “concentration” face is really our “I’m pissed” face. Isn’t that interesting?
I think back to an experience I had at the YS desk. We always get middle school boys on the computer that sometimes get too loud or use inappropriate language for the kids floor. One evening, after being told once or twice to keep it down, everyone was great for the rest of the evening. I thought since we were always “yelling” at them to keep it down that I should tell them that they were really great. When I walked over and told them it was wonderful how great they were this evening and we really appreciated it, a regular tween looked at me with suspicious and doubt in his eyes and said “Are you being sarcastic?”
I thought this was so funny. I was being sincere and heartfelt and he didn’t get it. And you know what? Now I have a better idea of how he might have been reading me.
Does knowing about teen brains help our interactions with teen patrons? I think it will a bit. Understanding how they develop can help us in understanding what they are going through. It gave me insight into the exchange I related about. It makes me pay attention to my facial cues. What else is going to help our interactions? Remembering what we were like as teens.