Kids performing well at verbal memory tests are more likely to have their pants on fire. As per the results of a hidden-camera experiment, children who are good at memorising words are better at concocting lies. The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, available on online database ScienceDirect.
Children of 6 and 7 years of age were made to participate in a trivia game. The researchers instructed them not to look at the final answers written on the back of a card, but, also gave them the opportunity to do so. They then made use of a hidden camera to determine who had looked at the answers. Some of the children unsurprisingly denied having looked when they actually did.
The researchers also questioned the kids about the colour of the answer on the cards to help them identify who was a good liar and a bad one. The former was able to lie to both the trick questions, while the latter lied about one of the trick questions, or to none.
Furthermore, the scientists measured the verbal memory (number of words a person can simultaneously commit to his memory) and visuospatial working memory (number of images a person can remember all at the same time) in the children.
The results showed that the good liars were better at verbal working memory tests than the bad liars. They performed better at both the processing and the recalling. On the other hand, the good and bad liars were not different from each other concerning the visuospatial working scores.
“While parents are usually not too proud when their kids lie, they can at least be pleased to discover that when their children are lying well, it means their children are becoming better at thinking and have good memory skills,” says Elena Hoicka from the University of Sheffield’s psychology department.
Those with better memories could thus remember lots of verbal information such that they could cover up lies. The researchers also explained that since keeping track of images was not important in covering up lies, it explained why there was no difference for the second test.
“We already know that adults lie in approximately a fifth of their social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes, so it’s interesting to know why some children are able to tell more porkies than others,” says Hoicka. “We’ll now be looking to move the research forward to discover more about how children first learn to lie.”