Effect of a social peer on risky decision making in male Sprague Dawley rats

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5 Scopus citations


Adolescence is a period associated with increased risk taking and peer relations. Research has shown that age is correlated with vulnerability to peer pressure, with youth being more influenced by peers compared with adults, leading to exacerbated risk taking, including risk for drug abuse. Preclinical research suggests that these findings may also be applicable to rodents, as younger rats find social interaction rewarding and are prone to risky behavior. However, there is little research on the effect of social interaction on rodent models of risky decision making. This study examined risky decision making utilizing a dual-compartment apparatus that consisted of two adjacent operant conditioning chambers separated by a wire mesh screen partition that allowed for limited social interaction. Male rats performed a risky decision making task in which they had a choice between a small reinforcer and larger reinforcer that was associated with a mild footshock, which increased in probability across the session. Rats were initially trained during adolescence and performance on the task was assessed in the presence or absence of a peer in the adjacent chamber during young adulthood. Results revealed that there was less risk discounting, leading to greater preference for the larger, risky reinforcer, in rats that had daily exposure to a social peer during training. These results provide evidence that social influence on risk taking can be modeled in rats, perhaps having implications for drug abuse risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-31
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Adolescent
  • Rat
  • Risk taking
  • Social
  • Young adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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