The neuroscientist, who has written a book on the teenage brain, on the turmoil of adolescence and whether mindfulness can help
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, professor in cognitive neuroscience at University College London, is the author of a groundbreaking new book, Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, in which she explains the development of the brain during the precarious, enriching and crucial years of adolescence.
In a sense, your book is a defence of adolescents. Why, as a society, do we demonise our teenagers?
Adolescents for ever have had a bad reputation. There are so many negative stereotypes. You can go back as far as Socrates, who said they have “bad manners, contempt for authority, show disrespect for elders and love chatter in the place of exercise”. It is not socially acceptable to mock and demonise other sectors of society. You wouldn’t get away with it, on social media, were you to mock women or a certain race, or elderly people with poor memories. But it is, strangely, acceptable to mock and demonise teenagers. As a society, we don’t like it that our children, who used to do what we said, are rebelling, becoming independent. It is difficult to handle that, and one way of handling it is to mock them.