Monday, February 18, 2008

Why do kids lie?

I thought I'd cross-post this from the Blue Rose Girls blog:

Is it Monday already? Let me start off with a joke. An oldie but goodie (I first heard this from my Dad):

What do George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. all have in common?




They were all born on holidays.

Anyway, I've been enjoying my three-day weekend and so once again was caught unprepared for my day to post, so I'll leave you with this fascinating article that is the cover story in New York Magazine. (I originally saw it via Educating Alice.) It's all about why kids lie, when they first start lying, and what it all means. One tidbit I found fascinating is that kids actually have to be pretty smart to lie: "A child who is going to lie must recognize the truth, intellectually conceive of an alternate reality, and be able to convincingly sell that new reality to someone else." These more advanced kids start lying at age 2 or 3. So...if you catch your kid lying at that young of an age, take consolation in the fact that he or she is really smart.

The article asks if kids are copying adults when they lie--they observe adults telling white lies all the time, and they're also probably confused when adults coach them to lie--for example, when they're told to say they like a gift they don't really like. And, of course, they lie to escape punishment.

I also loved the description of the "Peeking Game" experiment.

Anyway, just read the article, I'm not doing it justice. But a warning--the photographs that accompany the article are pretty creepy.

And Congratulations to the winners of the 2007 Cybils!


Anonymous said...

Yay! My son's not a sociopath. He's just *smart*. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Ah! I worked on this concept as a psych research assistant in college. Children must develop a "theory of mind" in order to lie - or to become a functioning person, actually (it's missing in autistic children, for instance). Two-year-olds are beginning to realize they have interior thoughts and that everyone else around them does too. Those thoughts, they realize, are based on expectations.

There's a really simple test for this concept. Give a kid a box of Oreos filled with something else (a rubber bug gets good reactions). Ask them what they expect in there, see if they'll still say cookies after they discover bugs in there, and then ask what they think their mom will think is in there when they give her a box of Oreos at the end of the test.

Tying this to reading - I think stories teach kids this concept in part. A book is someone else's story, after all.