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Lied-to Children are More Likely to Become Liars and Cheaters

Update Date: Mar 21, 2014 01:51 PM EDT

Children are a very impressionable group, which is why is important to teach them good behaviors and habits. A recent study found that children who have parents who drink or do drugs are more likely to use the same substances as well. Now, according to a new study, researchers reported that children who are lied to by parents or other authoritative adults are more likely to lie or cheat.

"As far as we know, this is the first experiment confirming what we might have suspected: Lying by an adult affects a child's honesty," said Leslie Carver, associate professor of psychology and human development in the University of California, San Diego Division of Social Sciences reported by the Financial Express.

For this study, researchers from the University of California San Diego recruited 186 children between the ages of three and six to participate in an experiment. The researchers randomly designated half of the children to the experimental group that involved lying. The children in this group were told that there was a huge bowl of candy in the next room. The experimenter quickly retracted the statement and told the children that the bowl of candy was a lie. The control group of children did not hear anything about candy.

All of the children were asked to play a game where they had to identify three characters based on their voices and phrases. The children were not allowed to peak at the toy making the noise. The characters were the Cookie Monster, Elmo and Winnie the Pooh and their corresponding sounds were "I love cookies," "tickle me," and "there is a rumbly in my tummy." The experimenters would then leave the room to answer a supposed phone call. When the researchers were out of the room, they played Beethoven's "Fur Elise," which was not associated with any of the character toys. The children were asked to identify this audio clip without peeking at the toy that was making the music.

When the researchers returned after 90 seconds, they asked the children whether or not they had peeked at the toy to help them identify the noise. The researchers found that around 80 percent of the children aged five and older who were lied to in the beginning peeked. However, 90 percent of them lied and said that they did not peek at the toy. The researchers found that 60 percent of the children who were not lied to had peeked and 60 percent of these children lied to the researchers. The researchers did not find any significant effects of lying on children under five.

"The actions of parents suggest that they do not believe that the lies they tell their children will impact the child's own honesty," the researchers wrote in their report according to NBC San Diego. "The current study casts doubt on that belief."

The study was carried out by Carver and Chelsea Hays and published in Developmental Science.

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