Liar Liar, Pants on Fire, Hanging from a 75th Percentile Wire
Do you remember telling a lie at 2, 3, or 4? Well, feel guilty no more! Lying is actually a reliable sign of higher cognitive functioning. It was previously accepted that children were able to start lying at 3.5 years and no earlier. However, a recent study by psychologist Angela Evans found that 25% of two-year olds, 50% of three-year olds, and 80% of four-year olds were capable of lies.
How did she manage this? Evans had a group of 41 two-year-olds and 24 three-year-olds presented with a “really tempting situation.” The child is told to guess a toy based solely on the noise it makes. The experimenter then tells the child not to peek under the box covering the next toy, leaves, and records the child’s actions on a hidden camera. When the experimenter returns, she asks the child whether they cheated and looked at the toy. To explain why these children are lying, Evans concludes that they feel guilty for defying orders from an adult and are trying to pretend that they never did it to clear their conscience.
Children were also tested for certain cognitive abilities and found that these skills are related to their ability to tell lies. This correlation supports the theory that child liars actually have higher executive functions than those that do not lie. Interestingly enough, Evans found that at the age of three, children were able to distinguish between a lie and a truth and even labeled a lie as something bad.
So if you ever find that a child has lied to you, don’t be offended, they’re just exercising their new cognitive skills!
Check out a great interview with Brock University psychologist Angela Evans here.
Toddlers start Lying as Early as Age 2 -CBC News Podcast & Article