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Children's ability to deceive was examined in order to determine whether they are able to hide their emotional expression intentionally. Three-year-olds were instructed not to peek at a toy while the experimenter left the room. When asked, the great majority either denied that they peeked or would not answer the question. Facial and bodily activity did not differentiate the deceivers from the truth tellers. Boys were more likely than girls to admit their transgression. These results indicate that very young children have begun to learn how to mask their emotional expressions and support the role of socialization in this process. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Developmental Psychology Copyright 1989 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
1989, Vol. 25, No. 3,439-443 0012-1649/89/$00.75
Deception in 3-Year-Olds
Michael Lewis, Catherine Stanger, and Margaret W. Sullivan
Institute for the Study of Child Development, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Children's ability to deceive was examined in order to determine whether they are able to hide their
emotional expression intentionally. Three-year-oids were instructed not to peek at a toy while the
experimenter left the room. When asked, the great majority either denied that they peeked or would
not answer the question. Facial and bodily activity did not differentiate the deceivers from the truth
tellers. Boys were more likely than girls to admit their transgression. These results indicate that very
young children have begun to learn how to mask their emotional expressions and support the role
of socialization in this process.
Deception is a frequent activity in the life of individuals. It
may take the simple form of agreeing with someone with whose
opinion, in fact, we do not agree (e.g., saying we like the color
of a tie when we do not) or other forms such as lying about a
serious transgression. Deception can be directed toward the self
as well, as in the case where we deny that we have a certain
feeling when, in fact, we do feel this way (Lewis, in press). More-
over, cultures may have display rules that encourage masking
negative emotion (Ekman, Friesen, & Ellsworth, 1972; Izard,
1977). Deception can be observed in all age groups, but the
questions of how old a child must be in order to be able to de-
ceive and how well a child can succeed in the deception are
largely unexplored.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that very young children may
practice deception, for example, young children who deny that
they have eaten a cookie when there are signs of the cookie on
their mouths. Many other examples of deception exist as well.
For example, the 20-month-old child who cries when she
scrapes her hand, but only when her mother is present, or the
24-month-old child who knows his name, but when asked what
it is playfully responds, "Mommy." In all these examples, the
children may respond with verbal or facial-vocal behaviors (or
both) that do not reflect what they know to be true. Could these
examples reflect the beginning of the ability to deceive? In order
to answer this question, it is necessary to be able to infer that
there is a known correct response and that the child's behavior
is an attempt to hide or avoid that response.
Given that many examples of deception-like behavior appear
in the young child, it is surprising that there is very little system-
atic research on this topic, both in terms of the development of
deception and of the individual differences in its use. There are
This research was supported in part by a grant from the W. T. Grant
Foundation. Special appreciation is given to Andree-Maryse Duvalsaint
and Phillip Barone for data collection and to John Jaskir for data analy-
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mi-
chael Lewis, Institute for the Study of Child Development, Robert
Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry
of New Jersey, Department of Pediatrics, 1 Robert Wood Johnson
Place-CN 19, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903-0019.
some studies on children's ability to detect deception (DePaulo,
Jordan, Irvine, & Laser, 1982; Feldman, Devin-Sheeham, & Al-
len, 1978; Morency & Krauss, 1982) and children's ability to
deceive when instructed to do so (Feldman, Jenkins, & Popoola,
1979; Feldman & White, 1980), however, most of this work has
involved children who are 6 years or older. Moreover, little work
exists regarding children's ability to hide or mask their emo-
tions or to be deceptive in more naturalistic situations at any
age (Saarni, 1984). It has been assumed that both socialization
factors and increased cognitive capacity enable children to alter
their facial expressions and verbal and nonverbal behaviors in
order to mask their underlying emotional state (Ekman et at.,
1972; Lewis & Michalson, 1985; Saarni, 1979). The study of
deception bears on the development of these capacities.
Saarni (1984) attempted to observe directly developmental
differences in children's abilities to use deception in a life-like
situation. First, third and fifth graders were placed in a situation
where their expectations for a desirable toy were not met. After
receiving a desirable gift and the promise of another such gift,
the children were given an undesirable gift. The children's facial
expression and nonverbal behavior were coded. With increasing
age, children demonstrated an increased ability to mask their
internal states, and girls showed this ability earlier and to a
greater extent than boys. These findings are difficult to inter-
pret, however, because the regulation and disassociation of ex-
pressive behavior from the internal state must be inferred. That
is, it is unknown whether the children, in fact, were disap-
pointed in not receiving the promised gift and, therefore, used
deception to mask their disappointment.
Although the study of children's use of deception is impor-
tant for our understanding of the socialization of emotion and
the relationship between internal states and extern~ expres-
sions, there are few studies on this topic. Those few that exist
provide us with limited information, because the children in
them were required to play act, and, thus, were not studied di-
rectly in terms of the use of deception in more natural situa-
tions. The present study represents an attempt to observe young
children engaging in deception under the condition that it is
they who chose to deceive. In order to create a natural situation
that might induce children to deceive, 3-year-old children were
placed in a situation where they were prohibited from looking
at a toy. On violating the prohibition, they were asked about
their behavior. It was expected that, of the children who violated
the rule, some would admit and some would deny their trans-
gression (deception). By observing their actual behavior, we
need not infer deception. Moreover, the facial expression of the
children was studied prior to as well as after they were asked
if they had peeked. In this way, one can judge their emotional
expressions to their transgression as well as whether the expres-
sions were a consequence of their denial or admission. There-
fore, this study focuses on (a) whether young children engage
in both verbal and behavioral deception and (b) how well they
deceive by masking their expression.
Thirty-three subjects, 15 boys and 18 girls, between the ages of 33
and 37 months (Mage = 35.4 months) were seen in the laboratory. The
subjects were from middle- and upper-class Caucasian families and had
been seen previously in the same laboratory at 5, 13, and 22 months of
age. Data from 2 additional subjects (1 boy and 1 girl) were omitted
from the analysis because they refused to cooperate with the procedure.
Subjects were seated in a chair with their back to a small table and
told that the experimenter was going to put out a surprise toy. The ex-
perimenter then set out a play "zoo."~ The children were instructed not
to peek and that they could play with the toy when the experimenter
returned. The experimenter then left the room. The mother was seated
with her back to her child, filling out a questionnaire. The children were
observed and videotaped through a one-way mirror. The experimenter
returned to the room when the children either peeked at the toy or when
5 min had passed. The experimenter stood in front and to the right of
the child and stared with a neutral expression for 5 s, then asked the
child, "Did you peek?". If the subject did not respond, she or he was
asked again. No subject who did not respond to the first question re-
sponded to the second. After waiting 5 s, the experimenter invited the
child to play with the toy and reassured him or her that it was all right
to peek. 2
The verbal and nonverbal responses of the subjects in response to the
experimenter's stare and to the question "Did you peek?" were coded
from the videotape recording of the session. Verbal responses fell into
three categories: (a) saying "yes" or shaking the head "yes"; (b) saying
"no" or shaking the head "no"; and (c) giving no verbal or nonverbal
A second coder experienced in coding facial expressions using the
MAX system (Izard & Dougherty, 1982) also coded facial expressions.
Tapes were viewed in both fast and slow motion, and each facial expres-
sion was noted as it occurred. Four expressions that occurred with any
frequency were coded: smiling, gaze avert, sober mouth, and relaxed-
interest mouth. Also coded was nervous touching, which included move-
ment of the hands to touch hair, clothing, face, or other body parts,
startle response, measured by abrupt body movement with or without
breath inhalation, and body inhibition, measured by sudden cessation
in ongoing activity. Of these three body activities, only nervous touching
occurred with sutficient frequency to be analyzed. A second coder
scored 10 tapes, and the interobserver reliabilities (agreement/agree-
ment + disagreement) were quite high for facial and bodily activities
(93%-98% agreement). The scores ranged from 0 to 2 for the positive
behaviors and 0 to 3 for the negative behaviors. Mean scores were ob-
tained by dividing the number of positive behaviors by 2 for the mean
positive score and the number of negative behaviors by 3 for the mean
negative score.
Verbal Response
Subjects were asked whether they had looked at the toy when
the experimenter left the room. Four of the 33 subjects did not
look, indicating that most children this age will violate such a
rule if left alone (sign test, p < .001). Of the 29 subjects who
violated the rule, 38% said "yes" they did look, 38% said "no"
they did not look, and 24% gave no verbal response. The four
subjects who did not look said "no" Thus, only 38% of the 3-
year-old children were willing to admit to the transgression that
they had just performed. 3
Sex differences in verbal response can be observed, with boys
more likely than girls to admit to their transgression. Of the
children who said "no" 73% were girls; of those who did not
verbally respond, 71% were girls, whereas of those who said
"yes," 82% were boys. Whereas 64% of the boys admitted to
their transgression (said "yes"), only 13% of girls did so (Fi-
scher's Exact Probability test, p < .04). Moreover, girls gave no
response more often than boys (28% and 13%, respectively; Fi-
scher's Exact Probability test, p < .05). Overall, boys were more
truthful (saying "yes" rather than "no" or giving no response)
than girls (Fischer's Exact Probability test, p < .03).
Facial and Bodily Response
The facial and bodily response data are presented in Table 1.
The data are presented as the percentage of subjects exhibiting
individual behaviors and the mean score of the positive and neg-
ative behaviors for the four groups of verbal replies by condition
as well as by change in response over the two conditions.
We conducted a repeated measures analysis of variance (AN-
OVA) with two within-subject factors (condition: stare vs. ask;
affect: positive vs. negative) and a between-subject factor
(group: no response, no, yes, and no peek). There were no main
effects for group and condition, although there was a significant
affect effect, F(1, 28) = 11.86, p < .002. Over conditions and
groups, the mean of the negative behaviors was greater than the
mean of the positive behaviors. There was a significant Group ×
Condition effect, F(3, 28) = 3.98, p < .02. The Group × Condi-
tion effect indicates that the groups differed in their overall re-
sponses over the stare and ask conditions. Although not signifi-
cant, F(3, 28) = 1.44, the three-way interaction suggests that the
groups differed in their positive behaviors over condition but
not in their negative behaviors. Testing each affect separately
revealed no changes over condition in the negative behaviors by
group, however there were significant changes in the positive
behaviors by group,/7(3, 28) = 4.73, p < .01. The no-response
group showed a decrease (least significant difference [LSD], p <
.05), the "no" group showed an increase (LSD, p < .05), and
the "yes" and no-peek groups showed no change.
Manufactured by Fisher-Price, 1984 (Copyright 916).
2 Parents were debriefed and informed that the study was designed so
that all subjects were expected to peek. Parents appeared satisfied that
their children did not show any deviant behavior and all agreed to par-
ticipate in a second study.
3 It is difficult to assign a significance level to these data because it is
not reasonable to give an equally likely probability to each of the three
types of response. Thus, only descriptive data are presented here.
Table 1
Facial Expression by Condition and Verbal Response
Subjects who peeked
Subjects who
did not peek
NR No Yes Total No
Condition (n = 7) (n = 11) (n = 10) (n = 28) (n = 4)
Stare condition
Relaxed face 57.1 18.2 20.0 28.6 25.0
Smile 28.6 27.3 40.0 32.1 0.0
M positive behaviors .429 .227 .300 .304 .125
Sober 42.9 27.3 30.0 32.1 50.0
Avert 100.0 81.8 60.0 78.6 75.0
Nervous touch 57.1 36.4 50.0 46.4 50.0
M negative behaviors .667 .485 .467 .524 .583
NR No Yes Total No
(n=7) (n=ll) (n=ll) (n=29) (n=4)
Question condition
Relaxed face 28.6 45.5 9.1 27.6 25.0
Smile 14.3 54.5 54.5 44.8 0.0
M positive behaviors .214 .500 .300 .362 .125
Sober 28.6 18.2 36.4 27.6 50.0
Avert 71.4 81.8 81.8 79.3 75.0
Nervous touch 71.4 45.5 36.4 48.3 50.0
M negative behaviors .571 .485 .500 .511 .583
Percentage change over condition
Relaxed face -28.5 27.3 10.9 - 1.0 0.0
Smile - 14.3 27.5 14.5 12.7 0.0
M positive behaviors -.215 .279 .000 .051 .000
Sober - 14.3 9.1 6.4 -4.5 0.0
Nervous touch 14.3 9.1 13.6 1.9 0.0
Avert -28.6 0.0 21.8 0.7 0.0
M negative behaviors -.096 .000 -.003 -.013 .000
NR = no response. Values represent percentages of subjects.
Given these overall differences, we next considered observa-
tion by condition and groups. In the
stare condition
when the
experimenter looked at the child, children who transgressed
(n = 28) showed more mean negative (.524) than positive (.304)
behaviors (LSD, p < .05). 4 Children who did not transgress
showed a similar pattern (M positive =. 125 vs. M negative =
.583). Although children who peeked showed the same mean
negative behavior as children who did not peek, the peekers
showed greater mean positive behavior than the nonpeekers. For
specific positive behaviors this was significant for smile face (test
of proportion, p < .05). There were no differences among the
three groups of peekers, particular between those who peeked
and lied and those who peeked and told the truth.
In the
question condition
the children who transgressed again
showed more mean negative than positive behaviors (LSD, p <
.05). Children who did not transgress also showed this pattern.
The children who transgressed showed more mean positive be-
havior than the children who did not transgress, although there
was no difference in the mean of negative behaviors. Smiling
behavior was greater for those subjects who transgressed than
for those who did not (test of proportion, p < .05). Among the
children who transgressed, "no" subjects showed the most
mean positive behavior and the no-response subjects showed the
least (LSD, p < .05). Although the deceivers showed a larger
mean positive behavior than the truth tellers, this difference was
not significant (LSD, p <. 10). There were no differences among
groups for the mean negative behaviors.
Of interest is the examination of the 11 subjects who said
"no" they did not peek but did and the four subjects who said
"no" and did not peek. The truthful "no" subjects showed
smaller mean positive behaviors than the deceivers (LSD, p <
.05); specifically, they smiled less (Z = 1.90, p < .06). There was
no difference in the mean negative behaviors between these two
Change in Behavior
These scores reflect, in part, the effect of deceiving, telling the
truth, or not answering the question posed by the experimenter.
There were no differences in either the mean positive or negative
behaviors when subjects who peeked were compared with those
who did not peek, partly because the three groups of subjects
4 One subject's tape was unavailable for measurement during the
stare condition.
who transgressed differed markedly in the degree of positive be-
havior change that they expressed. Subjects who transgressed
and said "no" showed more mean positive behavior change than
the other two groups. Although the mean of the positive behav-
iors increased for the "no" group they declined for the no-re-
sponse group (LSD, p < .01) and stayed the same for the "yes"
group. The comparison of deceivers and truth tellers was also
significant (LSD, p < .05). A comparison between the two "no"
groups revealed more mean increase in positive behavior for
the deceivers than for those telling the truth (Fischer's Exact
Probability test, p <. 10).
When 3-year-old children transgress a rule and are asked
about it, they are capable of deception. Only 38% in this study
admitted to looking at a toy that they had been instructed not
to look at. By 3 years of age, children do use verbal deception.
Thus, we have some evidence to support the hypothesis that
deception strategies are adopted at early ages. This is not sur-
prising given early socialization factors. Although parents tell
their children not to lie, they also inform them both directly and
indirectly that deception is socially appropriate. For example,
children are directly informed to pretend that they like a gift
even though they do not ("Remember to thank grandmother for
the sweater even though you wanted a toy"). Indirectly, children
watch the behaviors of others and observe the same type of be-
havior. For example, mother pretends that she is happy to see
her neighbor, when immediately before the neighbor arrived she
had expressed her desire not to see her.
Given these different and, at times, contradictory social mes-
sages, the task of the young child is to learn the rules of masking
emotional expression. Why, then, do findings with children past
6 years indicate only moderate success in accomplishing this
task? It may be because in previous studies the children were
asked to
that they liked or did not like a drink. Play
acting may require cognitive skills beyond those necessary for
deception that make this experimental type of deception more
difficult2 When experimental situations are used that are more
naturalistic and are familiar to children in relation to their daily
lives, children may show more competence.
Although almost all 3-year-olds succumb to the temptation
to look when told not to, not all subjects do so. In this study,
about 15% of the children did not peek, even after 5 min of
being left alone in the room with an attractive toy. Individual
differences in young children's ability to inhibit forbidden ac-
tion may be a function of the cognitive strategy that they adopt
while confronted with the transgression. For example, Mischel
and Ebbesen (1970) reported that mental distraction is one of
the strategies that leads to successful inhibition of action. Indi-
vidual differences in resisting temptation may also reflect
differences in socialization or in temperament. Socialization
differences in response to inhibiting action have been discussed
by many (e.g., Aronfreed, 1976; Parke & Slaby, 1983). In regard
to temperament, Mowrer (1950) reported a study by Solomon
where specific differences in puppy dogs' ability to inhibit a for-
bidden action were found. He claimed that these individual
differences, at least in dogs, were related to biological rather
than socialization differences because all of the animals were
trained in exactly the same way. Further studies are required to
examine whether differences in cognitive ability, socialization,
temperament, or a combination of these are related to individ-
ual differences in resisting temptation.
Given that young children transgress and are capable of ver-
bal deception, how successful are they in masking their expres-
sive behavior? One way to answer this is by observing their facial
and bodily behavior. Facial differences that occurred when the
subjects were questioned appear to covary with the nature of
their verbal response. The differences among the groups, as seen
in the change scores, reveal that the truth tellers (children who
said "yes" when they did peek and those who said "no" when
they did not peek) showed little behavior change when they re-
sponded verbally. On the other hand, the deceivers showed
change in their positive behavior; the children who said "no"
and peeked showed an increase in smiling and relaxed face, and
the no-response children showed a decrease in these behaviors
and an increase in nervous touching. These results suggest that
for the children who deceive, verbal and facial deception are
organized and integrated. That is, these children hide their ver-
bal deception with increased positive rather than negative be-
haviors. The no-response children also failed to admit their
transgression--however, they were less organized and inte-
grated. First, they could not directly lie (i.e., say "no") but chose
not to answer the question. Second, their facial/bodily re-
sponses showed an increase in nervous touching. In both ways,
then, their deception was less developed than that of the chil-
dren who said "no" These children may represent either the
transitional phase from truth telling to deception or may be
poor deceivers (see Saarni, 1979). Only longitudinal investiga-
tion can reveal whether deception ability passes through such
Exact analysis of behavior allows us in retrospect to observe
differences in those 3-year-olds who deceive in comparison with
those who tell the truth. However, the analysis is retrospective,
that is, we know already who the deceivers are and look for
differences. Given that it is an increase in mean positive and
(not negative) behaviors that differentiates the groups, how
would the naive observer react to these facial and bodily
changes, and are observers able to discriminate these subtle
cues? Sixty adult subjects, varying in age from 21 to 25 years,
were asked to view the videotapes in order to determine whether
they could identify the subjects who told the truth. Only those
segments of the tape in which the subject was asked about peek-
ing were presented (approximately 5 s), one at a time, to the
adults. The adults had to indicate whether they thought the par-
ticular child peeked or did not peek or that they did not know
if the child peeked. Because children shook their heads as they
gave their verbal response it was not possible to include those
subjects who admitted to their transgression, because it would
make little sense for children to say "yes" to something they
did not do. Therefore, only subjects who said "no" or gave no
response were rated. There were 15 subjects who said "no" (11
who had peeked and 4 who had not) and 7 subjects who gave
no response. The adult judges were not able to differentiate be-
tween the groups, particularly between subjects who said "no"
and peeked and subjects who said "no" and did not peek as well
5 Play acting deception is a complex skill in the manner of a meta-
decept skill, whereas deception itself is a simple skill; that is, play acting
a deception requires a "play acting of a play acting."
as between those who said "no" and those who gave no re-
sponse. Thus, although the number of subjects was few, the
adult judges did not appear to be able to discriminate the chil-
dren on the basis of their behavioral differences during the ques-
tioning period, even though some differences exist when careful
measurement is applied. Such findings do not disagree with the
recent work by Ekman, Friesen, and O'Sullivan (1988), who
found that deceptive smiling can be detected. In their study, ob-
servers who were trained on facial coding were used, and, as
such, this situation does not relate to naive observers looking at
facial behavior.
The adult judges in this study were not able to see the changes
in behavior from the stare to questioning conditions, and this
change may be what is important for more accurate judgments.
Just looking at children's response to questioning may not be
sufficient for making accurate judgements. Even in the question
condition, however, the children differ in their responses. Alter-
natively, the judges may have been able to observe the differ-
ences in expression but interpreted them differently. If the
adults believed that smiling and relaxed face do not reference
guilt, their judgment would result in the findings obtained.
Smiling and relaxed face are not usually believed to reference
guilt (Izard, 1977).
Sex differences indicate that girls show more verbal deception
than boys, a finding consistent with other studies using facial
expression (Feldman & White, 1980; Saarni, 1984). Specifi-
cally, females use deception earlier, and their use of deception
is less detectable than in males. Why should such group differ-
ences appear? In the present study, girls show no more trans-
gression than boys, yet they are significantly more apt to deny
their transgression than boys. There appear to be at least two
possible reasons for this. First, females may be more ashamed/
embarrassed about their transgression than males and, thus,
would be less likely to admit the transgression to the experi-
mentcr. H. Lewis (1971) reported that females show more
shame than males in interpersonal relationships, and Lewis,
Sullivan, Stanger. & Weiss (1989) have shown that 2-year-old
girls show more embarrassment than boys. Such findings indi-
cate sex differences in some emotional responses and, thus, may
contribute to sex differences in the likelihood of admitting to
transgression. If this difference in the emotional response to
transgression is true, it remains a puzzle why there are no
differences in the likelihood of violating a rule, because the vio-
lation of the rule should evoke more upset for females than tbr
males. In fact, although not significant, there were three females
to one male who did not peek. Thus, there is some tendency for
females not to transgress as much as males.
A second reason for these sex differences is possible, one
which may have more to do with social pressure than with emo-
tional differences. It may be the case that females, being more
interested in social approval (Block. 1978: Hu ston, 1983), are
less likely to admit to a transgression because such an admission
might result in the displeasure of the adult experimenter. In
this case, sex differences in the need for social desirability and,
perhaps, the fear of punishment are what motivate the female
children's deception. Why sex differences in deception occur
remains an important question and one related to the socializa-
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Developmental Psycholog): 15,
Saarni, C. (1984). An observational study of children's attempts to
monitor their expressive behavior.
Child Development. 55,
Received August 24, 1987
Revision received June 21, 1988
Accepted July 12, 1988
... This is because children may be more motivated to garner praise from their highly supportive parents by telling the truth rather than by concealing information from their highly supportive parents (Polak & Harris, 1999), even if they are equipped with a sufficient level of theoryof-mind to tell lies. For example, common lab-based task used to measure children's lying is the temptation resistance paradigm (TRP; Lewis et al., 1989), which involves eliciting a transgression (peeking at a forbidden toy), then asking children whether they had peeked at the toy (initial lie) and what they thought the toy was (lie maintenance). In the context of this lying task, children of warm parents may expect positive reactions from adult experimenters when disclosing minor transgressions. ...
... Three-to six-year-olds' theory-of-mind development also undergoes a dramatic development during this period (Wellman, 2014;Wellman & Liu, 2004). Lying behavior was measured using a version of the TRP (Lewis et al., 1989), in which children are asked to guess the names of animal toys by listening their sounds, then given the opportunity to peek the target toy when left alone. Children are motivated to turn around and peek at the toy as the toy's sound does not correspond to its actual identity (e.g., instrumental music paired with a teddy bear). ...
... Temptation Resistance Paradigm. The TRP (Lewis et al., 1989;Talwar & Lee, 2002) was used to observe children's lie-telling behavior. Children were told that they were going to play a guessing game where they had to guess the identity of a toy animal placed behind them by listening to the sound that it made. ...
Lying is a prevalent and normative behavior in young children. Conceptually, it is strongly linked with children’s theory-of-mind development. However, empirical studies show that the link between children’s lying and theory-of-mind is heterogeneous. This study examined whether parental control and parental warmth moderate the link between children’s lying and theory-of-mind understanding. Three- to six-year-old Singaporean children ( N = 116, M age = 59 months, 59 male, 81.0% Chinese) participated in the temptation resistance paradigm, in which they were asked to guess the identity of a toy but instructed not to peek at it when left alone. Parental control and parental warmth were assessed via a parent–child interactive game. Results showed that the relation between children’s maintenance of their initial lie and general theory-of-mind understanding was moderated by parental warmth. Specifically, there was a negative relation between children’s lying and theory-of-mind for dyads with high parental warmth, but a positive relation between children’s lying and theory-of-mind for dyads with low parental warmth. Overall, the findings suggest that children’s lying behavior is the outcome of a complex interaction between cognitive and social factors.
... Therefore, failing to regulate socially undesirable conduct when being filmed could have detrimental effects on one's reputation once the video recording of the misconduct is distributed and seen by others (Jansen et al., 2018;van Bommel et al., 2014). Cheating is a socially undesirable behavior that is highly prevalent among preschool children (Lewis et al., 1989;Sai et al., 2021). In this study, we examined whether children adjust their cheating behaviors when being filmed Liyang Sai and Yue Bi contributed equally to this work and share the first authorship. ...
... 1.2 | Reputational motives in children's cheating 1.2.1 | Self-interested cheating Children are often tempted to engage in behaviors that can harm their reputations, such as cheating. Children as young as 3 years start to cheat for their own interests (Lewis et al., 1989). Studies examining children's early cheating behaviors focus on a form of cheating that can be directly observed, such as peeking at the answer when playing a guessing game (Ding et al., 2014(Ding et al., , 2019Heyman et al., 2015) and throwing a ball multiple times to hit a target when told to throw only once (Kochanska et al., 1996). ...
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As early as 5 years of age, children begin to manage their reputations strategically. We investigated whether the reputation concern elicited by filming affected children's mental cheating, which is a form of cheating that cannot be detected even if someone else is watching. During the test, the experimenter was in the room with children, and we operationalized reputational cues as whether the video camera was actively recording or not. We compared the self‐reported accuracy of a filmed group versus a non‐filmed group in a mental cheating game, under two motivational contexts: self‐interest and other‐interest. A total of 320 children aged 3 to 6 years played a mind game in which they were asked to predict the outcome of a dice roll and to report whether their prediction was correct. We found that 5‐ to 6‐year‐olds were less likely to cheat for their self‐interests when being filmed than when not being filmed. However, filming did not reduce 5‐ to 6‐year‐olds' other‐interested cheating. Furthermore, we found that filming did not influence the self‐interested or other‐interested cheating of 3‐ to 4‐year‐old children. This study highlights how reputation concern elicited by filming motivates children to appear honest to others, even in purely mental cheating scenarios. Additionally, our results suggest that young children are sophisticated in their early reputation management and that prosocial justifications can alleviate concerns about dishonesty.
... The whole study was conducted in English. All participants completed a version of the Temptation Resistance Paradigm first (Lewis et al., 1989), followed by an executive function test. A 3 (story type: positive, negative, control) Â 2 (encouragement: presence vs. absence) between-subjects design was adopted for the study, which resulted in six conditions (see Table 1). ...
... We used a version of the Temptation Resistance Paradigm (TRP), a method which has been widely used to measure children's honesty in lab settings (Lewis et al., 1989;Talwar and Lee, 2002). The version we used consisted of three trials of a guessing game. ...
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Stories are widely used around the world to try to teach children moral lessons. However, it is often difficult for children to figure out how lessons from stories can be applied to real-life settings. In the present research, we tested whether encouraging children to be like the protagonists helps explain the success of positive moral stories (i.e., emphasizing positive consequence of truth-telling) in promoting honesty. Participants were 3- to 6-year-old children (N = 383), and honesty was operationalized in terms of truthful admission to cheating in the Temptation Resistance Paradigm (TRP). The results showed that stories were only effective at promoting honesty among young children when they were encouraged to try being like the protagonist in positive moral stories. Theoretical implications for moral development and practical implications for moral education are discussed.
... After returning, the experimenter asks child participants whether they peeked at or played with the toy. A child who does not follow the instructions given by the experimenter has a chance to lie spontaneously (Lewis et al., 1989;Sears et al., 1965). Children also tell white lies, which are prosocial lies spoken to be kind. ...
Lying behaviour has two facets, lie telling and lie detecting. The present study examined (1) the developmental pattern across children aged 4, 5, and 7 years on lie telling, lie detecting, theory of mind (ToM), executive function (EF), and verbal ability. (2) the relationship of lie telling and lie detecting with ToM, EF and verbal ability. A total of 75 children, 25 each from the age groups of 4, 5, and 7 years, participated in the research. It was found that children became significantly better at these abilities with age. A significant relationship between lie telling, lie detecting, ToM, verbal ability, and EF was also observed, where only ToM, not EF and verbal ability, predicted the lie telling and lie detecting abilities of children. The study has implications for child psychologists and parents by making them aware that, just like other abilities, lying behaviour also has a developmental trajectory.
... In this resistance-to-distraction study, the children were instructed to work on a task and ignore the temptation to interact with the clown box. Other studies (Carlson, 2005;Lillard et al., 2015) have used robots in a Forbidden Toy task (Lewis et al., 1989) that investigated to what extent children can resist the temptation to play with a robotic toy in the absence of the experimenter when explicitly having been instructed not to do so. Ferrari et al. (2009) described a methodology of teaching self-regulation skills to children with autism. ...
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The development of executive function (EF) in children, particularly with respect to self-regulation skills, has been linked to long-term benefits in terms of social and health outcomes. One such skill is the ability to deal with frustrations when waiting for a delayed, preferred reward. Although robots have increasingly been utilized in educational situations that involve teaching psychosocial skills to children, including various aspects related to self-control, the utility of robots in increasing the likelihood of self-imposed delay of gratification remains to be explored. Using a single-case experimental design, the present study exposed 24 preschoolers to three experimental conditions where a choice was provided between an immediately available reward and a delayed but larger reward. The likelihood of waiting increased over sessions when children were simply asked to wait, but waiting times did not increase further during a condition where teachers offered activities as a distraction. However, when children were exposed to robots and given the opportunity to interact with them, waiting times for the majority of children increased with medium to large effect sizes. Given the positive implications of strong executive function, how it might be increased in children in which it is lacking, limited, or in the process of developing, is of considerable import. This study highlights the effectiveness of robots as a distractor during waiting times and outlines a potential new application of robots in educational contexts.
In highly competitive contexts, deceptive intentions might be transparent, so conveying only false information to the opponent can become a predictable strategy. In such situations, alternating between truths and lies (second-order lying behavior) represents a less foreseeable option. The current study investigated the development of 8- to 10-year-old children's elementary second-order deception in relation to their attribution of ignorance (first- and second-order ignorance) and executive functions (inhibitory control, shifting ability, and verbal working memory). An adapted version of the hide-and-seek paradigm was used to assess children's second-order lie-telling, in which children were asked to hide a coin in either of their hands. Unlike the standard paradigm, the opponent did not consistently look for the coin in the location indicated by the children, so children needed to switch between telling simple lies and truths (elementary second-order lies about the coin location) to successfully deceive the recipient. The results showed that older children were less likely to tell elementary second-order lies. However, across the sample, when children decided to lie, this ability was positively related to their second-order ignorance attribution and their verbal working memory. Moreover, we obtained preliminary evidence for the presence of a habituation effect in second-order lying, with children being more accurate and having less variability in their truthful-to-deceive responses (this being the more frequently elicited response) than when telling lies to deceive. Our findings could have implications for understanding the mechanisms underlying children's ability to alternate between truths and lies to deceive.
Cheating is harmful to others and society at large. Promises have been shown to increase honesty in children, but their effectiveness has not been compared between different cultural contexts. In a study (2019) with 7- to 12-year-olds (N = 406, 48% female, middle-class), voluntary promises reduced cheating in Indian, but not in German children. Children in both contexts cheated, but cheating rates were lower in Germany than in India. In both contexts, cheating decreased with age in the (no-promise) control condition and was unaffected by age in the promise condition. These findings suggest that there may exist a threshold beyond which cheating cannot be further reduced by promises. This opens new research avenues on how children navigate honesty and promise norms.
The current study examined the relations between children's cognitive and emotion abilities with their likelihood to tell a lie for personal gain in a tempting situation. These relations were examined using behavioral tasks and questionnaires. A total of 202 Israel Arab Muslim kindergarten children participated in this study. Our results showed that behavioral self-regulation was positively associated with children's likelihood to tell a lie for personal gain. Children with higher behavioral self-regulation actually tended to lie more for their own gain, suggesting that the likelihood to tell a lie might be related to children's ability to mobilize and integrate their cognitive abilities to self-regulate their behavior. In addition, through exploratory analysis, we found a positive relation between theory of mind and children's likelihood to tell a lie, which was moderated by inhibition. Specifically, only among children with low inhibition was there a positive correlation between their theory of mind and the likelihood to lie. Moreover, age and gender were related to children's lie-telling; older children tended more to lie for their own gain, and this likelihood was higher for boys than for girls.
Yalan, zamandan bağımsız olarak sosyal olarak uygun bulunmayan bir davranış olarak süregelmiştir. Aileler çocuklarını yalan söylemenin yanlış olduğu öğretisiyle büyütmektedirler. Hatta bu öğreti çocuk masallarında da büyük bir yer tutmaktadır. Buna rağmen yalanın sosyal yönden kabul gördüğü hatta teşvik edildiği türlerinin olduğu da bilinmektedir. Bu çalışmada çocukların sosyal yönden kabul gören bu yalan türlerini (prososyal yalan) ne derecede uygun buldukları ile ebeveynlerinin tutumları ve ebeveynlerin benlik kurguları arasındaki bağlantılar incelenmiştir. Çalışmaya yaşları 9-13 arasında değişen toplam 129 çocuk ve anneleri dâhil edilmiştir. Ebeveyn tutumlarının ölçümünde “Anne-Babalık Stilleri ve Boyutları Ölçeği”, benlik kurgusunun ölçümünde “İlişkisel-Bireyci-Toplulukçu Benlik Ölçeği” ve çocukların prososyal yalanı uygun bulma düzeylerinin ölçümünde ise “Prososyal Yalanın Uygunluğu Testi – Çocuk Formu” kullanılmıştır. Çalışmanın sonuçları demokratik ve otoriter ebeveyn tutumlarının çocukların prososyal yalanı uygun bulma düzeyleri üzerinde anlamlı bir etkiye sahip olmadığını göstermektedir. Bununla birlikte ebeveynlerin izin verici tutumlarının artmasına bağlı olarak çocukların prososyal yalanın alt boyutu olan işbirlikçi yalanları uygun bulma düzeylerinin de arttığı sonucuna ulaşılmıştır. Sonuçlar benlik kurgusu üzerinden değerlendirildiğinde, annelerin benlik kurgularının çocukların prososyal yalanı uygun bulma düzeylerini anlamlı olarak etkilemediği bulunmuştur.
Sixty-three elementary school-age children in an experimental teaching session provided either genuine or dissembled verbal praise to a student (confederate). Nonverbal behavior of the subjects was analyzed both by trained coders and by naive observers. As hypothesized, nonverbal cues disclosed when the participants were dissembling. Dissembling participants smiled less, showed less pleasant mouth expressions, paused more, and were judged to be less pleased with their students than nondissembling participants.
The expression (encoding) and perception (decoding) of affect play critical roles in the individual’s social and emotional development. For example, the ability to recognize the emotional state of others is an important component of social competence. Similarly, the ability to control one’s own emotional expressiveness has important consequences for social development.
Sixty-three elementary school-age children in an experimental teaching session provided either genuine or dissembled verbal praise to a student (confederate). Nonverbal behavior of the subjects was analyzed both by trained coders and by naive observers. As hypothesized, nonverbal cues disclosed when the participants were dissembling. Dissembling participants smiled less, showed less pleasant mouth expressions, paused more, and were judged to be less pleased with their students than nondissembling participants.
The development of the ability to detect deception was investigated. Subjects were sixth graders, eighth graders, tenth graders, twelfth graders, and college students who watched or listened to a videotape of 4 males and 4 females, each describing someone they liked and someone they disliked (honest messages) and pretending to like the disliked person ("pretend to like") and to dislike the liked person ("pretend to dislike") (deceptive messages). When subjects were asked to indicate the speakers' affect (liking ratings), subjects at every age level tended to report the affect that was overtly expressed, even when the speakers were lying. However, subjects at every age level did perceive the feigned expressions of liking as less positive than the sincere expressions of liking, and the feigned expressions of disliking as less negative than the honest expressions of disliking. The three oldest groups also discriminated truth from deception by their "mixed-feelings" ratings-they perceived the speakers as having more mixed feelings when they were lying than when they were telling the truth. However, only the twelfth graders and college students perceived the dishonest messages as more deceptive than the honest messages. Finally, there were systematic changes, with age, in the kinds of messages that subjects perceived as deceptive. At the younger age levels, subjects judged expressions of negative affect as more deceptive than expressions of positive affect; however, among the older subjects, this trend reversed and subjects judged expressions of positive affect to be relatively more deceptive than expressions of negative affect.
The ability of adult observers to detect verbal deception from the facial nonverbal behavior of 36 stimulus persons in 3 age groups (first graders, seventh graders, and college students) was examined. Stimulus persons were led to be verbally truthful or deceptive while they were interacting with an adult or were alone, and their facial expressions were secretly videotaped. Untrained, naive judges' ratings showed greater accuracy in decoding the first-grade stimulus persons than the older ones, although ratings of the seventh-grade and college-age stimulus persons suggested differences in the nature of the 2 groups' successful deception.
Identified thirty-three 9- to 12-year-olds with above- or below-average levels of social competence on the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist and tested their encoding accuracy (i.e., the degree to which others could assess their facial expressions when the children were exposed to a series of affect-inducing film clips). The clips were chosen for their effectiveness at evoking five primary categories of emotion: anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, and combined fear/surprise. We also assessed subjects' ability at decoding the facial expressions of a sample group of stimulus persons. Girls with high social competence were more accurate at encoding and decoding than their less competent, same-sex peers; boys showed little difference according to their level of social competence.
This observational study examined developmental patterns in children's attempts to regulate their expressive behavior in a mildly conflictful situation that was contrived by creating expectations in children for receiving a desirable reward but in fact receiving an undesirable one. This situation provided a limited sample of children's expressive behavior when faced with an implied display rule: "Look pleased, despite receiving a disappointing gift." Videotapes of the children's expressive behavior were analyzed, and the major findings included significant age X sex interactions wherein the youngest children (especially boys) were more likely to show negative behavior on receiving an undesirable gift (i. e., a drab baby toy), while the older children (especially girls) were more likely to maintain their positive expressive behavior. The results are discussed in terms of developmental differences in (a) awareness of social rules for management of expressive behavior, (b) ability to implement the rule, and (c) motivation to carry out the rule.
Examined how children come to understand that internally experienced affect need not be behaviorally expressed and that the emotion that is expressed is not necessarily what is being felt internally. This understanding is demonstrated in the use of display rules, which provide guidelines for regulating the appropriateness of expressive behavior in various social situations. Display rules also represent social conventions that are only gradually understood by children. 60 6-, 8-, and 10-yr-old children were interviewed about 4 interpersonal conflict situations presented in comic strip style but with photographs of real children. Their responses were analyzed for (a) choice of affect as experienced by the main character in the situation and choice of facial expression, which could be consistent or inconsistent with the selected affect; (b) the inferential reasoning behind the choice of any facial expression; and (c) the nature of causes given by the child for why there could be a discrepancy between internal affect and facial expression. Multivariate analyses indicated significant increments among the older children for display rule usage and complexity of reasoning. Significant multivariate and univariate results were also obtained for the specific kinds of causes invoked by children for why a display rule was appropriate. There were no distinctive sex differences. (13 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)