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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    • "For instance, the findings of previous experimental and observational studies suggest that in early childhood, self-serving lies are common. Typically, young children begin to tell lies between 2–3 years of age (Evans & Lee, 2013; Lewis, Stanger, & Sullivan, 1989; Newton, Reddy, & Bull, 2000; Williams, Leduc, Crossman & Talwar, in press; Wilson, Smith, & Ross, 2003). In experimental studies, their propensity to tell self-serving lies, such as lies to obtain a prize or avoid punishment , increases into middle childhood (Talwar & Lee, 2002b; Williams et al., 2013), but decreases in adolescence (). "
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    ABSTRACT: Lying is an interpersonal exercise that requires the intentional creation of a false belief in another’s mind. As such, children’s development of lie-telling is related to their increasing understanding of others and may reflect the acquisition of basic social skills. Although certain types of lies may support social relationships, other types of lies are considered antisocial in nature. The goal of this study was to compare several possible correlates, such as cognitive ability and children’s behavior patterns, that may be associated with children’s (N = 133) use of lies in socially acceptable versus socially unacceptable ways. Children engaged in two lie-telling paradigms: one to measure socially accepted (polite) lies and one to measure socially unaccepted (instrumental) lies. Results indicate that instrumental liars were young with low theory of mind (ToM) scores and had high social skills. Polite liars were the oldest, had high ToM, and had similar levels of social skills as instrumental liars. Truth-tellers and dual liars had lower social skills and moderate ToM in comparison to the instrumental and polite liars. These findings suggest that children use lies selectively to achieve their social goals, and also suggest that children’s lying behavior may change from being self-motivated to being other-motivated as they age, which may reflect socialization toward socially accepted behavior.
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    • "It is important to note that there is no data in any of these studies regarding whether children made statements regarding the abuse, making it impossible to determine rates of lying. There is also evidence that some children misrepresent the truth (Ceci & Bruck, 1993) especially when in a punitive environment and exposed to adults who are also untruthful (Evans & Lee, 2013) even with respect to sexual abuse (Hayes & Carver, 2014). Thus, the statement by the authors appears to ignore the significant evidence that children can be misled to make false statements and develop false memories. "

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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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    ABSTRACT: Theory of mind (ToM) has long been recognized to play a major role in children's social functioning. However, no direct evidence confirms the causal linkage between the two. In the current study, we addressed this significant gap by examining whether ToM causes the emergence of lying, an important social skill. We showed that after participating in ToM training to learn about mental-state concepts, 3-year-olds who originally had been unable to lie began to deceive consistently. This training effect lasted for more than a month. In contrast, 3-year-olds who participated in control training to learn about physical concepts were significantly less inclined to lie than the ToM-trained children. These findings provide the first experimental evidence supporting the causal role of ToM in the development of social competence in early childhood.
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