Emergence of Lying in Very Young Children

Developmental Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.21). 01/2013; 49(10). DOI: 10.1037/a0031409
Source: PubMed


Lying is a pervasive human behavior. Evidence to date suggests that from the age of 42 months onward, children become increasingly capable of telling lies in various social situations. However, there is limited experimental evidence regarding whether very young children will tell lies spontaneously. The present study investigated the emergence of lying in very young children. Sixty-five 2- to 3-year-olds were asked not to peek at a toy when the experimenter was not looking. The majority of children (80%) transgressed and peeked at the toy. When asked whether they had peeked at the toy, most 2-year-old peekers were honest and confessed to their peeking, but with increased age, more peekers denied peeking and thus lied. However, when asked follow-up questions that assessed their ability to maintain their initial lies, most children failed to conceal their lie by pretending to be ignorant of the toy's identity. Additionally, after controlling for age, children's executive functioning skills significantly predicted young children's tendency to lie. These findings suggest that children begin to tell lies at a very young age. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

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    • "Traditionally, research has focused on the role of moral, social, and situational factors in the development of verbal deception. But in the past decade, researchers have shown that children's ToM understanding significantly correlates with their verbal deception in the preschool years for Western (Evans & Lee, 2013; Talwar & Lee, 2008) and Chinese children (Evans, Xu, & Lee, 2011). Because ToM is typically thought of as contributing to prosocial development, one might surmise that improving ToM ability should potentially reduce children's tendency to lie. "
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