People lie – we know this. People lie to kids – we know this, too. But what happens next? Do children who’ve been lied to lie more themselves?
Surprisingly, the question had not been asked experimentally until Chelsea Hays, then an undergraduate student in psychology at the University of California, San Diego, approached professor Leslie Carver with it. Now the pair have a paper out in Developmental Science, suggesting that adult dishonesty does make a difference, and not in a good way.
“As far as we know,” said Carver, associate professor of psychology and human development in the UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences. “This is the first experiment confirming what we might have suspected: Lying by an adult affects a child’s honesty.”
The study tested 186 children ages 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.
University of California, San Diego