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

  • Author(s): Hays, C
  • Carver, LJ
  • et al.
Abstract

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. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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