Emergence of Lying in Very Young Children

Evans, Angela D.; Lee, Kang
Developmental Psychology, Jan 7 , 2013, No Pagination Specified.
doi: 10.1037/a0031409
Lying is a pervasive human behavior. Evidence to date suggests that from the age of 42 months onward, children become increasingly capable of telling lies in various social situations. However, there is limited experimental evidence regarding whether very young children will tell lies spontaneously.
The present study investigated the emergence of lying in very young children. Sixty-five 2- to 3-year-olds were asked not to peek at a toy when the experimenter was not looking.
The majority of children (80%) transgressed and peeked at the toy. When asked whether they had peeked at the toy, most 2-year-old peekers were honest and confessed to their peeking, but with increased age, more peekers denied peeking and thus lied.
However, when asked follow-up questions that assessed their ability to maintain their initial lies, most children failed to conceal their lie by pretending to be ignorant of the toy’s identity.
Additionally, after controlling for age, children’s executive functioning skills significantly predicted young children’s tendency to lie. These findings suggest that children begin to tell lies at a very young age.
Retrieved 01/08/13.
Leave a comment


  1. avalon111

     /  01/15/2013

    Always the best kind of research and research grant.

    Write-up something every parent would know of already, and then take the money!


    • Jeanette Bartha

       /  01/15/2013

      There ya go. And then refuse to recognize what we know to be true and make up a phony psychiatric diagnosis.


  2. Interesting study. I remember reading about lying in children and that they usually lie to avoid “getting in trouble”. I find that what often matters in studies like these is whether the children’s lie can be detected or not. For example, I remember reading one where children were told not to eat some candy while an adult left the room. In this case, eating the candy and lying would be illogical as the candy would be missing upon the adult’s return.


    • Jeanette Bartha

       /  01/12/2013

      First I need to state that abused children need to be heard.

      I offered this study because it addresses the issue of credibility of childhood memories. Therapy for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) rests on childhood memories recalled in adulthood. Unfortunately, many who believe that childhood memories are accurate dismiss the science of memory and the fact that human brains are not developed enough to create a memory before the age of 2 1/2 or so.


      • That’s a good point.

        On an entirely different note: Do you have an email I could use to message you something?



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