Authors Chelsea Hays and Leslie Carver (Mar 2014) wanted to investigate the impact of lying. Quoting from their research:

We know that children learn through modelling and imitation. To date there are no published studies that examine whether lying to children has an effect on children’s honesty.


So, armed with a pack of lies they carried out an investigation. They sampled two age ranges of children: pre-school and school-age and they defined what they called a temptation resistance paradigm. To explain, they sought to find out if the children would be tempted to cheat (in the experiment, whether the children would peek at a toy that they had been told not to peek at) and whether, when provided with the opportunity to ‘own up’ that they had peeked, they would confess to their misdemeanour.

In order to measure the influence of lying, prior to the test, half the children were told a lie and half weren’t. It was the lying factor that Hays and Carver were interested in. Would those children who had been lied to before the experiment be more likely to peek and lie that they had done so or would there be no measurable difference between the two groups? Hays and Carver suspected that there would be a difference. Before reading on, what do you think would be the result?

The results

Firstly, there was a difference between the age groups. There was no difference in peeking and ‘owning up’ between the lied to and the not lied to groups of pre-school children; however, there was with the school-age children. Children who were school-age and had been lied to were more likely to lie about peeking than those who had not been lied to.

The abstract concludes with these words:

These results have important implications for parenting and educational settings.

Too right it does.