ArticlePDF Available

Follow the liar: The effects of adult lies on children's honesty


Abstract and Figures

Recent research shows that most adults admit they lie to children. We also know that children learn through modeling and imitation. To date there are no published studies that examine whether lying to children has an effect on children's honesty. We aimed to bridge the gap in this literature by examining the effects of adults' lies on elementary and preschool-aged children's behavior using a modified temptation resistance paradigm, in which children are tempted to peek at a toy they have been told not to look at, and later given a chance to either admit peeking, or try to conceal their transgression by lying. Prior to being tested, half of the children were told a lie and half were not. We then measured both cheating (peeking) and lie-telling behaviors. We hypothesized that lying to a child would increase the likelihood that they would both peek at the toy and lie about having done so. Results showed that school-age children were more likely to peek if they had been lied to, and were also more likely to lie about peeking. In contrast with the school-age children, there was no difference in peeking or lying for preschoolers who were and were not lied to. These results have important implications for parenting and educational settings.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Follow the liar: the effects of adult lies on children’s honesty
Chelsea Hays
and Leslie J. Carver
1. Department of Psychology, University of California, USA
2. Program in Human Development, University of California, USA
Recent research shows that most adults admit they lie to children. We also know that children learn through modeling and
imitation. To date there are no published studies that examine whether lying to children has an effect on childrens honesty. We
aimed to bridge the gap in this literature by examining the effects of adultslies on elementary and preschool-aged childrens
behavior using a modified temptation resistance paradigm, in which children are tempted to peek at a toy they have been told not
to look at, and later given a chance to either admit peeking, or try to conceal their transgression by lying. Prior to being tested,
half of the children were told a lie and half were not. We then measured both cheating (peeking) and lie-telling behaviors. We
hypothesized that lying to a child would increase the likelihood that they would both peek at the toy and lie about having done so.
Results showed that school-age children were more likely to peek if they had been lied to, and were also more likely to lie about
peeking. In contrast with the school-age children, there was no difference in peeking or lying for preschoolers who were and were
not lied to. These results have important implications for parenting and educational settings.
Research highlights
Preschool and school-aged children were randomly
assigned to a lie or no lie condition, in which adults
did or did not lie to them before temptation
resistance testing.
School-age children who were lied to were more likely
to both lie and peek in the temptation resistance
paradigm than children who were not lied to.
Preschoolersbehavior was unaffected by whether an
adult lied to them or not.
Much research has been devoted to the topic of lying.
Researchers have long been fascinated with determining
who lies, who they lie to, and why or why not one might
choose to lie (Depaulo, Jordan, Irvine & Laser, 1982;
Depaulo, Kirkendol, Kashy & Wyler, 1996; Lewis,
Stanger & Sullivan, 1989; Polak & Harris, 1999; Talwar
& Lee, 2002a, 2008; Talwar, Lee, Bala & Lindsay, 2002;
2004). Lying refers to deliberately making a false verbal
statement with the intent of instilling false beliefs into
the mind of the statements recipient (Lee, 2000, 2013).
The current body of knowledge has shown that both
children and adults engage in lie-telling behaviors
(Depaulo et al., 1996; Talwar & Lee, 2002a). Most research
in this field has focused on the lies that children tell
adults, leaving the lies that adults tell children largely
ignored (Polak & Harris, 1999; Talwar & Lee 2002a;
Talwar et al., 2002, 2004; Wilson, Smith & Ross, 2003).
The small amount of research that has been devoted to
this topic has established that most parents do lie to their
children (Heyman, Hsu, Fu & Lee, 2013; Heyman, Luu
& Lee, 2009), yet there has been no attempt to examine
the effects that these lies may have on the honesty of the
children being lied to.
Lie-telling behaviors begin to appear in children
around 3 years of age, although there is evidence that
children as young as 2 are capable of lying (Chandler,
Fritz & Hala, 1989; Evans & Lee, 2013; Polak & Harris,
1999; Talwar & Lee, 2002a). Although young children lie
for a variety of reasons, some of the most common lies
Address for correspondence: Leslie J. Carver, Psychology Department, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA
92093-0109, USA; e-mail:
©2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Developmental Science (2014), pp 1–7 DOI: 10.1111/desc.12171
are aimed at concealing transgressions and avoiding
punishment (Depaulo et al., 1982; Wilson et al., 2003).
In order to elicit these types of lies in a laboratory setting
many experimenters have used a temptation resistance
paradigm (Lewis et al., 1989; Polak & Harris, 1999;
Talwar & Lee, 2008). In the paradigm children are told
by an experimenter not to peek at a toy while left alone
in a room. Because of the tempting nature of this
situation, most children peek at the toy. When the
experimenter re-enters the room and asks the child
whether they peeked, children can then either confess or
can try to conceal the transgression and lie. This
paradigm has been used as the basis for learning much
about the lies that children tell, making it possible for
researchers to correlate lie-telling behaviors with a
variety of measures. Age, theory of mind, and executive
functioning ability have all been positively correlated
with the lie-telling behaviors of children (Carlson, Moses
& Hix, 1998; Talwar & Lee, 2008). More importantly,
research has shown that a childs moral evaluation of lies
is related to their lie-telling behavior, with children who
value truthfulness being less likely to lie (Talwar & Lee,
Because lie-telling is a social behavior, it is important
to note that observation, modeling and imitation are all
thought to play a large role in a childs social learning
(Bandura, 1977; Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1961; Meltzoff
& Gopnik, 1993; Meltzoff, 2002). According to Bandu-
ras Social Learning Theory, social behaviors are
acquired through a process of direct experience and the
observation of others via modeling (Bandura, 1963,
1977). A child is more likely to adopt, or imitate, a
modeled behavior if the model is similar to the observer
with an admired status, and also if the modeled behavior
results in a valued outcome (Bandura, 1977), suggesting
that a parents dishonest actions may be highly suscep-
tible to imitation. It is also believed that modeling and
imitation are central to the development of moral values
(Meltzoff & Gopnik, 1993; Meltzoff, 2002). This idea is
supported by evidence showing that childrens moral
judgments can be altered by modeling (Bandura &
Mcdonald 1963). Children may be able to do more than
just imitate a dishonest adult; perhaps they are able to
extract a value system from the model, learning to place
less importance on honesty in general.
Given that parents lie to their children, that childrens
lie-telling behaviors are related to their moral under-
standing, and that they develop social behaviors and
moral values through modeling, it is surprising that there
are no published studies evaluating the effects of these
lies on childrens honesty. We aimed to bridge the gap in
this literature by examining the effects of an adults lie
on childrens behavior in a temptation resistance
paradigm. We hypothesized that lying to a child would
increase the likelihood that the child would engage in
dishonest behaviors. We expected that children who were
lied to prior to being tested in a temptation resistance
paradigm (Talwar & Lee, 2008) would be more likely to
lie than children who were not lied to. Because cheating
is generally dishonest, and we expected that our manip-
ulation would decrease childrens motivation for honest
behavior, or their view of honesty as important in this
context, we hypothesized that the children who were lied
to would also be more likely to cheat (peek) in the
paradigm. Older children have more sophisticated theory
of mind abilities. For example, children do not pass tests
designed to determine whether they understand that
someone can hide their emotions until about 5 years of
age (Wellman & Liu, 2004). Because older children are
also better able to identify and categorize lies (e.g. as
good, bad, intentional, unintentional, etc.; Bussey, 1999;
Talwar et al., 2002; Wellman, Cross & Watson, 2001), we
expected them to be more affected by the lying manip-
ulation than younger children who, based on previous
research (Talwar et al., 2002), might have difficulty
understanding otherslies.
There were 186 children between the ages of 3 and 7
included in this study. Ninety-three children were of pre-
school age, which we defined as under age 5 (the age at
which formal schooling generally begins in the US; 41
boys; Mage =3.95 years, SD =.64, range =3.054.99)
and 93 were of school-age, between ages 5 and 7 (50
boys; Mage =6.43 years, SD =.93, range =5.007.98).
We tested a range of ages in order to assess develop-
mental changes in the influence of adult lies on children.
Children in each age group were randomly assigned to
either the lieor no liecondition. Table 1 shows the
number and ages of children in each group. Children
were primarily White (N=124). Other children were
Hispanic (N=18), Asian (N=20), African American
(N=6), Native American (N=3), multiple races
reported (N=6). Nine parents declined to report their
childs ethnicity. Children were primarily from middle
SES families. An additional 12 children were tested, and
their data excluded for the following reasons: Data from
five children (one school-age child and four preschool-
ers) were excluded from analysis because they admitted
to peeking even though they had not peeked. Although
these children could be classified as having lied, the
number in this cell is too small to include in analysis. The
©2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
2 Chelsea Hays and Leslie J. Carver
four preschoolers who falsely confessed to peeking were
young 3-year-olds (M=3.2 years), suggesting that this
may be due to a confirmation bias which has been shown
to be robust in 2-year-olds and present in some 3-year-
olds (Fritzley & Lee, 2003). Data from three preschoolers
were excluded because of tape recording errors which
prohibited coding of their behavior (e.g. missing tape or
tape with no sound). Data from two children (one
school-age child and one preschooler) were excluded
because they refused to promise to tell the truth. One
school-age child was excluded due to experimenter error
and another was excluded due to the mother telling the
child that she would be watching from the other room
(parents were instructed not to tell their children that
they would be able to see them).
Children were tested using a modified temptation
resistance paradigm. Children were tested with three
recognizable, commercially available toys (Elmo, Cookie
Monster, Winnie the Pooh) that are associated with a
familiar sound (Tickle mefor Elmo, I love cookiesfor
Cookie Monster, There is a rumbly in my tummyfor
Winnie the Pooh). These sounds were prerecorded, and
presented during the temptation resistance paradigm.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of two
conditions. In the liecondition, children were told a lie:
There is a huge bowl of candy in the next room, want to
go get some?Once in the room, the experimenter
confessed to the child saying, Theres not really any
candy in here; I just said that because I wanted you to
come play a game with me.Children randomly assigned
to the no liecondition were asked, There is a really fun
game in the next room, want to go play?, with no
mention of candy. Both groups of children were tested
using a modified temptation resistance paradigm to
measure lie-telling and cheating (peeking) behaviors.
Children were seated with their back towards the
experimenter while two commercially recognizable
character toys were brought out in succession. Each of
these toys was accompanied by an associated audio clue.
After hearing the clue, children were asked, Who do you
think it is?The third toy (target toy) was accompanied
by an unassociated audio cue (Beethovens Fur Elise).
Toys were counterbalanced so that no toy served as the
target toy more often than any other toy. As the target
toy was brought out the experiment was interrupted
under the guise of a phone call for the experimenter. The
child was instructed not to peek at the toy and was left
alone in the room for 90 seconds. When the experimenter
returned, the toy was covered and the child was told they
could turn around. The experimenter asked the child if
he promised to tell the truth. This procedure was adapted
from Talwar et al. (2002), which showed that asking
children to promise to tell the truth before giving them a
chance to admit or deny their transgression has been
shown to significantly decrease lie-telling (Lyon &
Dorado, 2008; Talwar et al., 2002, 2004). Without this
adaptation the majority of children lie in the paradigm
(Lewis et al., 1989; Polak & Harris, 1999; Talwar & Lee,
2002b; Talwar et al., 2002), causing low variability and
making it difficult to reveal the potential effects of our
lying manipulation. After promising to tell the truth the
child was asked: When I was gone did you turn around
and peek to look at the toy?
Data coding
Coders unfamiliar with the hypotheses being tested or
group assignment coded the childrens behavior. Chil-
dren were coded as having peeked if they turned their
head more than 90 degrees towards the toy with their
eyes open. Lying and truth-telling scores were coded only
for children who peeked. Children were coded as having
lied if they claimed they had not peeked when coders
indicated that they had. Children were coded as having
told the truth if they peeked and subsequently admitted
that they had. Two independent coders both coded 51
(27%) of participants for reliability. Reliability for
Table 1 Number and ages of girls and boys tested in each group. Age is given in months, and the age range is provided in
Age group
Lied to Not Lied to
TotalGirls Boys Girls Boys
Preschool N=25
50.7 months (39.159.9)
45.4 months (37.859.1)
47.4 months (36.658.6
47.7 months (36.958.9)
School age N=21
81.5 months (60.195.7)
76.5 months (60.9 92.1)
77.4 months
76.5 months (60.992.1)
Total N=46 N=48 N=49 N=43 N=186
©2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Follow the liar 3
peeking behavior was perfect (Cohensk=1.0). Reli-
ability for lying was near perfect (k=.96). Disagreement
was resolved by consensus.
We used logistic regression to predict childrens lie-
telling behavior. Predictor variables were group assign-
ment (whether the child was lied to or not), binned age
(preschool or school age), and the interaction between
age and group. Dependent measures were whether the
child peeked in the temptation resistance paradigm, and
whether they lied.
Table 2a shows the results of the logistic regression for
peeking behavior. Group assignment did not signifi-
cantly predict the likelihood of children peeking (p=
.481), but age did (p=.017). Younger children were more
likely to peek than older children. The interaction
between age and group assignment was a marginally
significant predictor of peeking behavior (p=.083).
Because we predicted differences between age groups in
the effect of the lying manipulation, we also conducted
individual chi square analyses for each age group. Data
from these analyses are summarized in Table 3. For
preschool-age children, there was no evidence that the
lying manipulation affected their peeking behavior
(p =.733). School-age children were more likely to peek
if they had been lied to, v
(1, N=93) =5.93, p=.015,
φ=.253, than if they were not lied to (see Figure 1a).
Group assignment was a significant predictor of lying
behavior (p=.008, see Table 2b). Children who were lied
to were more likely to lie than children who were not.
Age also significantly predicted lying (p=.002). Older
children lied more often than younger children. Finally,
the interaction of age and group assignment was a
significant predictor of lying behavior (p=.018). As was
the case with peeking, we conducted chi square analyses
for each age group separately. These analyses (see
Table 3) showed that preschoolers were just as likely to
lie if they were previously lied to as if they were not (p =
.996). School-age children who had been lied to were
more likely to lie about peeking, v
(1, N=63) =4.552,
p=.033, φ=.269 (see Figure 1b).
Adults often lie to children as a way to control their
behavior, to get them to cooperate, to control their
emotions, or even because it seems easier than providing
an accurate, but difficult explanation for a question the
child may ask (Heyman et al., 2009). Although we know
that this phenomenon exists, there is little research about
Table 2 Results of logistic regression analyses
Predictor bPseudo R
Wald X
df p Odds Ratio
(a) peeking behavior predicted by age, group assignment, and age by group interaction
Age .383 .497 1 .481 1.467
Group 1.112 5.715 1 .017 .329
Age x Group interaction 1.316 .112 3.007 1 .083 3.729
Predictor bPseudo R
Wald X
df p Odds Ratio
(b) Lying behavior predicted by age, group assignment, and age by group interaction
Age 1.140 6.961 1 .008 .320
Group 1.383 9.864 1 .002 .251
Age x Group interaction 1.434 .088 5.551 1 .018 4.197
Table 3 Results of chi square analyses for each age group
Peeking Lying
Log likelihood PR
Log likelihood p
Preschoolers .001 .12 .06 .733 0.00 0.00 0.00 .996
School age .05 5.93 3.001 .015 .067 5.52 2.24 .033
©2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
4 Chelsea Hays and Leslie J. Carver
the implications of adult lies for childrens behavior. We
manipulated whether an adult lied to a child or not, and
measured their peeking and lie-telling behaviors in a
temptation resistance paradigm. The results of the
present experiment support our hypothesis that children
who were lied to would be more likely to both cheat
(peek) and lie in a temptation resistance paradigm,
although this effect was only found in the older children.
These results suggest that when an adult lies to a school-
age child, it increases the likelihood that they will, given
the opportunity, cheat on a relatively innocuous task,
and lie about having done so.
Although this study has answered what happens when
an adult lies to a child, it has not answered why it
happens. There are several possible reasons why our
manipulation may have caused the children to engage in
more dishonest behavior. First, it is possible that the
children were imitating the lie-telling behavior that they
observed. However, given that the children not only lied
more if they had been lied to but also peeked more, it is
likely that the children were doing more than simply
imitating the modeled behavior. Perhaps these children
made assumptions about the importance of honesty to
the model. This would explain why the children who were
lied to were more dishonest in general, and would be
consistent with data suggesting that childrens social
imitation can influence their moral judgments (Bandura
& McDonald, 1963). Another possibility is that rather
than imitating, the children were extracting information
about the adult who lied to them, and then using that
information to decide how to respond. Perhaps the
children did not feel the need to uphold their commit-
ment to tell the truth to someone whom they perceived as
a liar. This is particularly relevant because the children
were asked to promise to tell the truth, highlighting a
commitment between the child and the adult. This would
be in line with research that shows that a trustees
characteristics, such as honesty, influence whether a child
will trust them (Koenig & Harris, 2005, Vanderbilt, Liu
& Heyman, 2011).
It is important to note that we did not find the same
effect of lying or cheating with the preschool-age children.
Perhaps younger children were unable to recognize that
they had been lied to, due to less sophisticated theory of
mind abilities (Wellman et al., 2001) and subsequent
difficulty understanding othersthoughts and false beliefs.
Although 3-year-olds can sometimes pass standard false-
belief tests, the ability to understand that people can hide
their knowledge and emotions is more sophisticated, and
can emerge as late as 5 years of age (Wellman & Liu, 2004).
Given that younger children also have more difficulty
identifying lies and understanding the motivations behind
them (Bussey, 1999; Lee & Cameron, 2002; Lee, Cameron,
Doucette & Talwar, 2002; Talwar et al., 2002), it is possible
that they were inclined to think that the experimenter just
made a mistake, rather than intentionally telling them a lie.
Furthermore, it is possible that since the experimenter
justifies his lie (I just wanted you to come play a game with
me!), the child did not classify this as a badlie. Another
explanation is that preschoolers were unable to generalize
the lie-telling model to the test situation, as the experi-
menter lied about candy and the child was questioned in a
guessing game setting.
This study has important implications for our under-
standing about how children learn about honesty via
imitation. The results suggest that, at least for children
who are elementary school age, the behavior of adults
who are around them may influence their own honesty.
Children may either learn to lie by copying adults around
them, or they may learn that it is sometimes acceptable
to lie from watching adults.
Percentage of children peeking
Lied to Not Lied to Lied to Not lied to
School Age Preschool
Lied to Not Lied to Lied to Not lied to
School Age Preschool
Percent of peekers who lied
Figure 1 (a) Peeking behavior for school-age children (left)
and preschool children (right) who were lied to and not lied to.
(b) Lying behavior for school-age peekers (left) and preschool
peekers (right) who were lied to and not lied to. ***p <.005;
**p <.01; *p <.05.
©2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Follow the liar 5
In the current study, children were lied to in one
context, and about one topic (the presence of candy in
the next room), and were given the opportunity to lie in a
different context (the character guessing game). The
results of this study suggest that even when an adult lies
about a topic that is different from the one they ask a
child about, they may still be providing an important
dishonesty modelfor them. However, future research
might benefit by asking whether context matters, and
whether being told a lie about the same or a similar topic
might provide an even stronger lying cue to children.
Results of studies that manipulate whether the context of
adult lies matches situations in which children are asked
questions might have important implications for inter-
views of children in forensic situations. For example, if a
child is being interviewed regarding a possible misbe-
havior, and they catchthe adult in a lie, the present
results suggest that they might be more likely to lie in
response to the questions that they are being asked than
children who have not been lied to. Although we do not
know how our results would extend to older children, who
might be more likely to find themselves in a forensic situation,
it seems likely that they would be at least as affected by adult
lies as elementary aged children, if not more so.
A limitation of this studywas that it was conducted with a
single adult model, not with a parent or an adult with whom
the child was acquainted. Research suggests that we are
more likely to lie to strangers than to those we are close to
(Depaulo & Kashy, 1998). If a parent had produced the
adult lie, children might have been less likely to lie in return.
However, given the literature on how frequently parents lie
to their children, it would be interesting to empirically test
this idea. Despite this limitation, we feel that our results are
still relevant to lies in the context of the parentchild or
caregiver relationship as a first step in understanding the
effects of adult lies on childrens lying behavior. Although
children have an established relationship with their care-
giver that is likely characterized by trust, it may be that
violations of that trust lead children to even more dishonest
behavior. On the other hand, the existing parentchild
relationship may make children immune to effects of lie-
telling by their parents. Future research could replicate this
study using a parent as the experimenter to confirm
whether this generalization is valid. Another limitation of
our experiment is that it only tested a situation where the
adult admitted to the child that they had told them a lie.
Perhapsdiscoveringthe lie ontheirown, or justsuspecting a
lie,rather thanreceivingan admission of guilt, mayproduce
different effects. It is also possible that learning of a lie in
real time may have different effects from learning of a lie in
the past. Both of these questions should be assessed in
future research. We also did not include a manipulation
check to see if the children recognized that they had been
lied to and if they thought the lie was a badlie. This could
have helped us understand why the preschoolers were
impervious to our manipulation. In future research, we
plan to test childrens theory of mind as well as their ability
to classify lies, in order to determine whether eitherof these
may play a role in childrens susceptibility to otherslies.
Another important question that remains unanswered is
whether childrens honesty is generally affected, or if it is
specific to the person who lied to them (i.e. do children lie
more in general, or do they only lie more to the person who
originally lied to them). One way to test thiswould be to use
separate experimenters for the lie-telling manipulation and
the guessing game.
These results, coupled with previous research showing
thatmost parents lieto their children,suggests that children
may very well be following the liar. The actions of parents
suggest that they do not believe that the lies they tell their
children will impact the childs own honesty. The current
study casts doubt on that belief. This study suggests, rather,
that children may use the actions of adults, as a model, to
determine whether they will engage in honest or dishonest
behaviors.It also suggests that children canuse the modelas
a way to extract information about the value of honest and
dishonest behaviors. The lack of evidence for this effect in
the younger group of children may suggest that lying to a
child beforethe age of 5 is largelyinconseq uential, although
future research is needed to confirm this. Overall these
findings answer a fundamental question about the impact
of adultsdishonesty on children. Now that we have clear
evidence to suggest the negative effects of lying to children,
perhaps adults need to re-evaluate the way that they
interact and talk with children. These results have very
important implications for parenting as well as education
and legal settings.Parents and teachers sometime s use lying
as away of controlling childrens behavior or emotions, and
the present results suggest that this strategy may have
deleterious effects on childrens own honesty.
We would like to thank the parents and children who
participated in this study, and the members of the
Developmental Social and Cognitive Neuroscience lab
for their help with data collection and coding.
Bandura, A. (1963). The role of imitation in personality
development. Journal of Nursery Education,19 (3).
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Oxford: Prentice
©2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
6 Chelsea Hays and Leslie J. Carver
Bandura, A., & McDonald, F.J. (1963). Influence of social
reinforcement and the behavior of models in shaping
childrens moral judgment. Journal of Abnormal and Social
Psychology,67 (3), 274281.
Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S.A. (1961). Transmission of
aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of
Abnormal and Social Psychology,63 (3), 575582.
Bussey, K. (1999). Childrens categorization and evaluation of
different types of lies and truths. Child Development,70 (6),
Carlson, S.M., Moses, L.J., & Hix, H.R. (1998). The role of
inhibitory processes in young childrens difficulties with
deception and false belief. Child Development,69 (3), 672691.
Chandler, M., Fritz, A.S., & Hala, S. (1989). Small-scale deceit:
deception as a marker of two-, three-, and four-year-olds
early theories of mind. Child Development,60 (6), 12631277.
Depaulo, B., Jordan, A., Irvine, A., & Laser, P. (1982). Age
changes in detection of deception. Child Development,53 (3),
DePaulo, B.M., & Kashy, D.A. (1998). Everyday lies in close
and casual relationships. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology,74 (1), 6379.
Depaulo, B., Kirkendol, S., Kashy, D., & Wyer, M. (1996).
Lying in everyday life. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology,70 (5), 979995.
Evans, A.D., & Lee, K. (2013). Emergence of lying in very
young children. Developmental Psychology,49 (10), 1958
Fritzley, V., & Lee, K. (2003). Do young children always say yes
to yesno questions? A metadevelopmental study of the
affirmation bias. Child Development,74 (5), 12971313.
Heyman, G.D., Hsu, A.S., Fu, G., & Lee, K. (2013). Instru-
mental lying by parents in the US and China. International
Journal of Psychology,48 (6), 11761184.
Heyman, G., Luu, D., & Lee, K. (2009). Parenting by lying.
Journal of Moral Education,38 (3), 353369.
Koenig, M.A., & Harris, P.L. (2005). Preschoolers mistrust
ignorant and inaccurate speakers. Child Development,76 (6),
Lee, K. (2000). Lying as doing deceptive things with words: A
speech act theoretical perspective. In J.W. Astington (Ed.),
Minds in the making: Essays in honor of David R. Olson (pp.
177196). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Lee, K. (2013). Little liars: development of verbal deception in
children. Child Development Perspectives,7(2), 9196.
Lee, K., & Cameron, C.A. (2002). Extracting truthful infor-
mation from lies: emergence of the expression-representation
distinction. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly,46,120.
Lee, K., Cameron, C.A., Doucette, J., & Talwar, V. (2002).
Phantoms and fabrications: young childrens detection of
implausible lies. Child Development,73 (6), 16881702.
Lewis, M., Stanger, C., & Sullivan, M. (1989). Deception in
3-year-olds. Developmental Psychology,25 (3), 439443.
Lyon, T.D., & Dorado, J.S. (2008). Truth induction in young
maltreated children: the effects of oath-taking and reassur-
ance on true and false disclosures. Child Abuse & Neglect,32
(7), 738748.
Meltzoff, A.N. (2002). Imitation as a mechanism of social
cognition: origins of empathy, theory of mind, and the
representation of action. In U. Goswami (Ed.), Blackwell
handbook of childhood cognitive development (pp. 625).
Oxford: Blackwell.
Meltzoff, A.N., & Gopnik, A. (1993). The role of imitation in
understanding persons and developing a theory of mind. In
S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg & D.J. Cohen (Eds.),
Understanding other minds: Perspectives from autism (pp.
335366). New York: Oxford University Press.
Polak, A., & Harris, P.L. (1999). Deception by young children
following noncompliance. Developmental Psychology,35 (2),
Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2002a). Emergence of white-lie telling in
children between 3 and 7 years of age. Merrill-Palmer
Quarterly,48 (2), 160181.
Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2002b). Development of lying to conceal
a transgression: childrens control of expressive behaviour
during verbal deception. International Journal of Behavioral
Development,26 (5), 436444.
Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2008). Social and cognitive correlates of
childrens lying. Child Development,79 (4), 866881.
Talwar, V., Lee, K., Bala, N., & Lindsay, R.C.L. (2002).
Childrens conceptual knowledge of lying and its relation
to their actual behaviors: implications for court compe-
tence examinations. Law and Human Behavior,26 (4), 395
Talwar, V., Lee, K., Bala, N., & Lindsay, R.C.L. (2004).
Childrens lie-telling to conceal a parents transgression. Law
and Human Behavior,28 (4), 411435.
Vanderbilt, K.E., Liu, D., & Heyman, G.D. (2011). The
development of distrust. Child Development,82, 13721380.
Wellman, H.M., Cross, D., & Watson, J. (2001). Meta-analysis
of theory-of-mind development: the truth about false belief.
Child Development,72 (3), 655684.
Wellman, H., & Liu, D. (2004). Scaling theory of mind tasks.
Child Development,75, 534541.
Wilson, A., Smith, M., & Ross, H. (2003). The nature and
effects of young childrens lies. Social Development,12 (1),
Received: 7 January 2013
Accepted: 27 November 2013
©2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Follow the liar 7
... Thirty child and caregiver dyads were enrolled into the study (See Table 1). The median age of the caregivers was 39 years (IQR = [34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49]. The majority of the caregivers (90%) were biological parents and predominantly mothers (24 mothers vs 3 fathers), and the remaining 3 were grandmothers or aunts. ...
... There was also a tendency for some of the child participants in the study to "lie" about having taken their medication. Despite honesty being a desired and expected value in society, "white lies" and the "misleading" of other people is common [43,44]. A "lie" serves the purpose of managing interpersonal relationships for personal gain or to avoid negative consequences [45]. ...
... A "lie" serves the purpose of managing interpersonal relationships for personal gain or to avoid negative consequences [45]. Social learning theory postulates that observation, modelling and imitation are the cornerstones of social behaviour [19,43,44]. Therefore, it is not surprising that the caregivers' resorted to misleading their children in their need for medication as they were attempting to ensure the child's health. ...
Full-text available
Awareness of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) status improves health outcomes in children living with HIV, yet caregivers often delay disclosure. This qualitative investigation explored, through observation, how 30 caregivers responded to a HIV Disclosure study conducted between 2017 and 2020 at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Soweto, South Africa. Caregivers were assisted in disclosing to their children, aged 7-13 years; followed by a sub-sample of caregivers providing in-depth interviews to elaborate on findings.1) Barriers to disclosure included: caregivers being ill equipped, the fear of negative consequences and children considered lacking emotional or cognitive readiness. 2) Deflecting diagnosis from their children and the need for medication, motivated caregivers to disclosure. 3) Apprehension was evident during disclosure; however, overall disclosure was a positive experience with the support of the healthcare providers. These results highlight the significant role healthcare providers' play in supporting caregivers through the disclosure process.
... In fact, recent studies have found that, despite the strong disapproval of lying, 84% of United States (U.S.) parents, 98% of Chinese parents, and 100% of Singaporean parents admit lying o their children as a means of behavioural and emotional control: a practice referred to as "parenting by lying" (Heyman et al., 2009;Setoh et al., 2020a). Although parenting by lying appears to be a common parenting practice, its short-term and long-term associations on social, emotional, and moral development have only recently been studied (Hays and Carver, 2014;Meiting and Hua, 2020;Santos et al., 2017;Setoh et al., 2020a). This study aims to bridge this gap by examining the long-term associations of parenting by lying in childhood with lying, psychosocial problems, and the expression of psychopathic traits amongst a sample of Turkish adults. ...
... To date, researchers have investigated parenting by lying in the U.S., Canada, China, and Singapore (Brown, 2002;Heyman et al., 2009;Meiting and Hua, 2020;Santos et al., 2017;Setoh et al., 2020a;Setoh et al., 2020b). These studies have focused on the types of lies that parents most commonly tell their children (Heyman et al., 2009;, as well as the associations that parenting by lying has with lying and psychosocial adjustment-in particular internalizing (e.g., anxiety, low mood) and externalizing (e.g., anger, aggression) problems (Hays and Carver, 2014;Santos et al., 2017;Meiting and Hua, 2020;Setoh et al., 2020b). The available research suggests that not only is parenting by lying a common practice but that the types of lies that parents tell their children remain relatively consistent across North American and some Asian cultures. ...
... It is possible that parents may be inadvertently teaching their children that lying is an acceptable way to achieve wants and needs, protect feelings, or manipulate others. Evidence from research examining the consequences of adults lying to children supports this hypothesis (Hays and Carver, 2014;Meiting and Hua, 2020;Santos et al., 2017;Setoh et al., 2020b;Yi et al., 2014). Specifically, studies by both Hays and Carver (2014) and Yi and colleagues (2014) examined the short-term associations of lying to children and found that children who were lied to by an unfamiliar adult were more likely to lie to that same unfamiliar adult in return. ...
Full-text available
Parenting by lying—a practice whereby parents lie to their children as a means of emotional or behavioral control—is common throughout the world. This study expands upon the existing, albeit limited, research on parenting by lying by exploring the prevalence and long-term associations of this parenting practice in Turkey. Turkish university students ( N = 182) retrospectively reported on their experiences of parenting by lying in childhood, their current frequency of lying towards parents, their present level of psychosocial adjustment problems, and their expression of psychopathic traits. The results found that recalling higher levels of parenting by lying in childhood was significantly and positively associated with both increased lying to parents as well as the expression of secondary psychopathic traits in adulthood. The novel findings uncovered in this paper highlight the potential long-term associations that parental lying to children may have on their psychosocial development in adulthood.
... Participants were lukewarm about using lies and deception to reinforce good behaviors in children. A few participants disagreed with using lies or deception and were concerned about giving children bad examples (Hays & Carver, 2014;Setoh et al., 2020). Lies and deception in parenting have been reported in other East Asia and Pacific regions (Nogami et al., 2005). ...
This study examined parents’ and grandparents’ understanding of violence against children (VAC) strategies to prevent VAC in the home. Research questions: What do parents and grandparents understand about VAC? Which child discipline practices are violent? What are strategies to prevent VAC? Participants: 30 parents and grandparents from a small rural community. Six focus group discussions (FGDs) in which participants shared their perceptions and practices relating to child discipline, forms of VAC, and proposed intervention strategies. In two community forums, participants discussed intervention strategies produced in separate FGDs and agreed on three priority strategies. During the FGDs and community meetings, none of the participants ever mentioned any laws, regulations, or government strategies to address VAC in the home. Participants expressed confusion and mixed feelings and responses on forms of VAC. Some agreed on deception, manipulation, intimidation (som lot), threats (Kom ream, harsh words, scolding (je), and physical punishment (i.e., beating or beating with an object) as an unacceptable discipline that would adversely impact children’s well-being. Others agreed on cautiously using such disciplines to a certain degree and context. Participants proposed three priority strategies to address VAC in the home, of which two—community awareness and education and community-based efforts—fit with the Cambodia 2017 to 2024 Action Plan Strategies to Prevent and Respond to VAC. The third strategy, addressing alcohol harm-related violence, though not regarded in the 2017 to 2024 Action Plan, was considered pivotal in preventing VAC. Parents and grandparents have a substantial role in child protection at home. Nevertheless, without a clear definition of VAC or articulation of protecting children from violence in the home, it would be challenging to involve parents/grandparents for effective intervention. Participants’ three priority strategies have a substantial policy and program implications for Cambodia’s primary prevention of VAC action strategy. Community-based mobilization, education, and capacity building need to start and sustain the community.
... When we talk about children, traditional research methods are not enough (Barker, Weller, 2003). Youths have unique age characteristics such as the lack of scientific reasoning (Zimmerman, 2000), shorter attention span (McClelland, 2013) and a tendency towards honesty in speech and behavior (Hays, Carver, 2014). In the present paper, in accord with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we refer to children as any person under the age of 18 (United Nations, 1989). ...
Full-text available
The current paper aims to present several innovative concepts and to propose a method (namely the show cards method), based on the photo-elicitation concept, in the study of young generations. The ideas are put forward in the framework of established qualitative research methods (such as interviews and ethnographic observations) in the field of social sciences and are based on the methodology applied in the European project Horizon 2020 entitled DigiGen-The impact of technological transformations on digital generations.
... These unintentional instances of modelling may encourage lie-telling in children. Hays and Carver (2014) demonstrated that children were more likely to cheat, and lie about their cheating, if an experimenter lied to them to gain compliance. Moreover, the effects of parents' lies to gain their children's compliance appear to be enduring. ...
Honesty is an important value that children acquire through socialization. To date, the socialization process by which children learn to behave honestly remains relatively unexamined. Researchers may have left this area of research relatively unexamined because there is no framework to understand how parents socialize honesty and lie-telling in their children. As such, we suggest that the domains-of-socialization approach, which organizes the socialization process into various domains based on different aspects of the caregiver-child relationship, may provide such a framework. Using this framework, researchers can operationalize vague parenting variables and identify gaps in the research, allowing them to investigate the relationship between socialization and developmental trajectories of honesty and lie-telling tendencies more thoroughly. In this paper, we review the literature on factors influencing children's lie-telling and honesty in relation to the five domains to demonstrate the applicability of the domains-of-socialization framework to research on the socialization of honesty. We also provide recommendations for future research on the socialization of honesty using a domain-specific approach, which will contribute to our understanding of how children develop into normative or problematic liars.
An electronic review copy can be obtained from the publisher:
We study whether democratic values that govern the preferences over social choice rules are subject to intergenerational transmission. We focus on five social choice rules, namely, Plurality, Plurality with Runoff, the Majoritarian Compromise, Borda Rule and Social Compromise, that represent very diverse values about how to extract public will out of individual opinions. In our experiment, students and their parents are confronted with hypothetical preference profiles and are asked to decide which alternative should be chosen for the society. The design of the hypothetical preference profiles allows us to interpret a subject’s choice of an alternative as her revealed preference for one of the focused social choice rules. We find significant differences between the rules most often chosen by the parents (Majoritarian Compromise and Plurality) and those by the students (Social Compromise). Analyzing the relation between the preferences over social choice rules for each parent-offspring pair, we find support for the hypothesis of parental transmission of preferences.
Lying is a behavior that, in theory, is discouraged and punished, except when it isn’t. Perhaps as a result, many individuals lie at low levels somewhat regularly. While research has well documented the cognitive skills that support children’s early lying, it does not explain how children learn when to lie versus tell a truth. The current paper reviews the impact of social-environmental influences on the development of children’s lie-telling knowledge, understanding and behavior, including the roles of parents, siblings, teachers and others. It is argued that holistic examinations of cognitive, social, environmental, cultural and child factors, interacting over time, is required to understand divergent trajectories of lying and truth-telling across development, particularly at the extremes.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Education is the key to human development and progress; an indispensable tool for a nations’ growth and overall development. In order to proffer workable solutions to some contending issues in our educational sector; this study examined the concept of transformative education for sustainable development and the role it plays if properly implemented in our educational system. The researchers opined that the Nigeria educational sector is in urgent need of transformative pedagogy in line with the transformation agenda in the nation’s polity. A survey research design was adopted for the study and data were collected using a questionnaire and interview method. The population for the study was about 6000 thousand stakeholders in the education sector comprising of school principals and high ranking personnel in the ministry of education out of which a sample size of 361 respondents was randomly drawn in line with Krejcie and Morgan (1975) formula for determination of sample size. Data analysis using simple percentages and Chi-Square statistical analysis techniques showed that to a low extent; information is easily accessible and curriculum reforms are speedily implemented while to a high extent entrepreneurship innovations is perceived to enhance development. Even though particular emphasis was paid to the Nigerian context; the findings in this article is reflective of some other Africa countries. Feasible recommendations for sustaining development in education and the actualization of the nations’ vision for her educational sector by the year 20/20/20 were made. Keywords: Transformative, education, tool, sustainable, development.
Full-text available
In three experiments the understanding was studied that a statement's surface meaning may differ from its actual meaning, which is determined by a speaker's intentional states. Children (ages 3-5) were informed of a speaker's deceptive intent, but not the truth. Even 3-year-olds rejected the lie-teller's statement as reflecting his true beliefs and the truth, indicating a basic expression-representation differentiation. Most 4- and 5-year-olds and some 3-year-olds demonstrated more advanced understanding of the expression-representation distinction. They knew that a lie may contain information about a lie~teller's true knowledge state as well as the truth. The expression-representation distinction emerges in the preschool years and lays the foundation for further enhancement in later years.
Full-text available
The present study examined lying behaviour in children between 3 and 7 years of age with two experiments. A temptation resistance paradigm was used in which children were left alone in a room with a music-playing toy placed behind their back. The children were told not to peek at the toy. Most children could not resist the temptation and peeked at the toy. When the experimenter asked them whether they had peeked, about half of the 3-year-olds confessed to their transgression, whereas most older children lied. Näve adult evaluators (undergraduate students and parents) who watched video clips of the children’s responses could not discriminate lie-tellers from nonliars on the basis of their nonverbal expressive behaviours. However, the children were poor at semantic leakage control and adults could correctly identify most of the lie-tellers based on their verbal statements made in the same context as the lie. The combined results regarding children’s verbal and nonverbal leakage control suggest that children under 8 years of age are not fully skilled lie-tellers.
Full-text available
Lying is common among adults and a more complex issue in children. In this article, I review two decades of empirical evidence about lying in children from the perspective of speech act theory. Children begin to tell lies in the preschool years for anti- and prosocial purposes, and their tendency to lie changes as a function of age and the type of lies being told. In addition, children's ability to tell convincing lies improves with age. In the article, I highlight the central roles that children's understanding of mental states and social conventions play in the development of lying. I also identify areas for research to be done to develop a more comprehensive picture of the typical and atypical developmental courses of verbal deception in children.
imitation;social cognition;empathy;theory of mind;representation of action
In 2 diary studies, 77 undergraduates and 70 community members recorded their social interactions and lies for a week. Because lying violates the openness and authenticity that people value in their close relationships, we predicted (and found) that participants would tell fewer lies per social interaction to the people to whom they felt closer and would feel more uncomfortable when they did lie to those people. Because altruistic lies can communicate caring, we also predicted (and found) that relatively more of the lies told to best friends and friends would be altruistic than self-serving, whereas the reverse would be true of lies told to acquaintances and strangers. Also consistent with predictions, lies told to closer partners were more often discovered.
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.