Stopping behavior in time is very important for social behavior and safety. Stopping behavior is extra difficult if someone suddenly has to do something different than what they are used to. This is more difficult for adolescents than for adults. In adulthood, the parts of the brain that have to inhibit behavior are not yet fully developed. Adolescents inhibit behavior by using another part of the prefrontal cortex that is already developed.


Someone is in a hurry. He rides his bicycle towards an intersection. The light turns orange. An adult is significantly more likely to hit their brakes than a 15-year-old will do so. It is also more difficult for a 15-year-old to suddenly have to do something different. Once he has started the pattern of movements, for example to drive through the orange light, it is very difficult to stop him from doing so. Stopping behavior in time is also important for social behavior.

In adolescence, inhibition changes. The part of the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for inhibition develops. This means that inhibition does not yet work optimally. Adolescents of about eighteen are also less able to stop their behavior than adults. For education, this not only means that a student in a class can go completely out of control in terms of behavior. It also means that an adolescent has difficulty not reacting to the behavior or comments of classmates. Moreover, it means that an adolescent finds it difficult to have to do something in a different way than he is used to. This can sometimes lead to problems, for example, when teachers change. Inhibition theory assumes that very short periods of attention alternate with very short periods of distraction during the performance of a task. The mental task can be listening to the teacher, reading a text or solving a math problem. During the moments of attention, the person is busy with the task, but there is a constant competition with other thoughts that also require attention. During moments of attention, the task inhibits those distracting thoughts, but during moments of distraction the opposite happens. The other thoughts take their chance again. This happens subconsciously. It is clear that adolescents have a lot of distracting thoughts in their busy minds, which are also reinforced by the behavior of the young people around them.


A student reads a text in an economics book that explains a certain economic model. The writer mentions the Spijker automotive company as an example. The student mentally says goodbye to the economic model. He still reads, but his brain produces an image of the fast sports car. He wonders whether it is two- or four-wheel drive. The teacher asks him a simple question about the economic model. How many features from this model have we seen before? The student looks blankly at the teacher and he answers: “four.” Not because of the number of features, but because of the drive of the Spijker. The teacher shakes his head glumly. "Four? Are you sleeping again?”