Parents who worry that their children are lying to them should not be too concerned, because it shows they have excellent memories and thinking skills, researchers have found.
Psychologists at the University of Sheffield who tested 135 children found that those who lied did far better on a trivia test than their honest peers.
They believe it is because it takes a lot of thought and memory skills to keep track of lies told so that they do not slip up and give the game away.
“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,” said Dr Elena Hoicka, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology, said
“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. We’ll now be looking to move the research forward to discover more about how children first learn to lie.”
For the study, children aged six and seven years old were given the opportunity to peek at the answers on the back of a card during a trivia game.
Unbeknownst to them, they were being recorded on a hidden camera. Those children who looked at the answers but then denied it did better at a later memory test.
The link between lying and verbal memory is thought to stem from the fact that covering lies involves keeping track of lots of verbal information.
As a result, children who possessed better memories and could keep track of lots of information were able to successfully make and maintain a cover story for their lie.
Dr Tracy Alloway, project lead from the University of North Florida, said: "This research shows that thought processes, specifically verbal working memory, are important to complex social interactions like lying because the children needed to juggle multiple pieces of information while keeping the researcher’s perspective in mind.”
The results were published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
I have had the privilege of meeting students around the country at prize giving days and most that I spoke to were poised, confident and realistic about what they were facing. Professionally, I have also seen those who were in a state of terror, despite their very high intelligence and inordinate preparation for the examination.