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What are adolescents reasons for doing obviously stupid things? Really, there are things which adolescents routinely do which are dangerous, with no benefit to their wellbeing, counter-productive economically and sometimes deadly. So, why do they do these stupid things.

Because, I spend a lot of time near the University of California, Berkeley campus I see lots of young people do things which can only be thought of by older people, like me, as stupid. These kids are not low IQ, or they wouldn’t be here at one of the best universities in the world. And some of the street people I know have good backgrounds and some have graduate degrees. So, I ask myself repeatedly, what brings so many adolescents to these desperatly stupid self violating behaviors?

I know a few people who have various mental and emotional problems and have trouble getting and keeping a job but they don’t do what I am thinking of as stupid things. For humans to do stupid things usually requires an stable social group which encourages the dangerous self-destructive behavior. Do you see where I am going with this? You must be healthy, strong, clear sighted, have muscular skill and be socially sane to do some stupid things, like ride a skateboard the wrong way down a busy two lane one-way street at 20 mph passing cars going 20 mph the other way. This gives a closing speed of 40 mph which is clearly enough to severely injure the skate border and possibly kill them. The time saved by these maneuvers can’t possibly equal the time lost lying in a hospital with injuries or time lost where they don’t get to do anything because they are dead. The payoff versus the risk is totally skewed and yet I see stupid behavior of this magnitude almost everyday.

A more frequent behavior, although not so spectacular, is the common occurence of people getting into and out of their cars when there is traffic flowing right next to them. Sometimes it is actually a tight squeeze for their body to fit between their parked car and the cars going down the street. Everyone seems to be comfortable with this stupidity, it seems — except me. Even waiting for a single car to pass so there is no traffic practically touching them appears to be beyond the waiting tolerance of most people these days.

These actions seem to be level two on my Maturity Quotient chart which was blogged about last week, A Maturity Quotient MQ-test to replace IQ-tests. They are traits associated with an adolescent trying to show off and prove to the world, and themself that they have skill and are powerful. Well, that attitude is okay for an adolescent but there are other ways which have far more reward for far less risk. If a kid wants to have other kids look at him while he is showing off he would be far better off doing in on stage as a muscian, or actor or even with an online presence but taking lifethreatening risks when no one you care about is even looking is stupid.

Most of these kids realize this behavior goes nowhere by the time they are out of college but there is always an new crop here on campus. Perhaps showing off is an essential part of growing up and all that is being suggested is to do it in a way that will have long term payoffs. Getting a nice car to show off has some beneficial results in ego gratification and social oneupsmanship but driving it like crazy and crashing it not only wastes ones time, money and blood but turns off the friends  you are trying to impress with your skill.

Getting a skull tattoo is sort of stupid but getting killed is really stupid.