A new study to be published indicates that peer pressure is hard for students to fight because it changes the brain itself. Researchers asked young men to rate the attractiveness of people in two cycles. Once on their own and again after seeing peer ratings. The study found that participants uniformly changed their ratings to match those of their peers. MRI scans of the participants' brains also showed significantly different patterns of activity in two areas associated with determining subjective value and reward. The study suggests that being in a class with people who are interested in a subject can make a student more engaged, and overall school culture can have a greater impact on student achievement than isolated programs.
Psychological Science, 2010, Social influence modulates the neural computation of value