Lies by adults can make children cheat

  • IANS, New York
  • |
  • Updated: Mar 21, 2014 18:08 IST

It is time you stopped lying to your kids, even if it is just to get their cooperation as children who are lied to are more likely to cheat, a new research suggests.

"This is the first experiment confirming what we might have suspected that lying by an adult affects a child's honesty," said Leslie Carver, an associate professor of psychology and human development at University of California, San Diego.

The study tested 186 children in the age group 3 to 7 in a temptation-resistance paradigm.

Approximately half of the children were lied to by an experimenter, who said there was "a huge bowl of candy in the next room" but quickly confessed this was just a ruse to get the child to come play a game.

The others were simply invited to play, with no mention of candy.

The game asked children to identify character toys by their sounds but they were asked not to peek.

One sound was a deliberately tricky exception: Beethoven's Fur Elise, which is not associated with any commercially available character toy.

The researchers found that 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds who had been lied to were both more likely to cheat and then more likely to lie about having done so, too.

About 60% of the school-aged children who had not been lied to by the experimenter peeked at the tricky temptation toy - and about 60% of the the children who peeked lied about it later.

Among those that had been lied to, those figures rose to nearly 80% peeking and nearly 90% of those who peeked lying.

The study was not designed to get at the reasons that children are more likely to lie when they have been lied to, but to demonstrate that the phenomenon can occur, Carver said.

The study appeared in the journal Developmental Science.


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