Little Liars: Development of Lying in Different Social Contexts

Kang Lee

Department of Psychology, Queen's University


In this talk, I will report results from two sets of studies on the development of lying. The first set of studies examined whether young children are able to tell lies successfully to conceal their transgressions, whether they are able to consider situational factors when deciding to telling lies or the truth, and whether children's lying behavior is related to their conceptual and moral understanding of verbal deception. The second set of studies investigated young children's ability to tell lies for pro-social purposes (i.e., white lies). I would like to use these studies to illustrate that 1) lying for both pro- and anti-social purposes occurs early in childhood and develops rapidly; 2) young children are adaptive lie-tellers who decide to tell lies or the truth according to specific social situations; and 3) children's conceptual understanding and moral judgments of lying is unrelated to their actual behavior.