Toddlers start lying as early as age 2

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The bad news is: Your two-year-old may be a liar. The good news is: If she is, it’s a sign of advanced cognitive skills.

Although previously, the youngest age at which children were known to lie was 3½, in an experiment by Brock University psychologist Angela Evans, lies were told by:

  • 25 per cent of two-year-olds.
  • 50 per cent of three-year-olds.
  • 80 per cent of four-year-olds.

Evans published the results of the study in the journal Developmental Psychology in January in an article co-authored by University of Toronto researcher Kang Lee.

She said the most interesting finding of the study is that lie-telling appeared to be linked to brain development.

“When you think about telling a lie, you have to think about what happened, you have to prevent yourself from saying what actually happened, you have to provide an alternative response,” she said.

Lie-telling was linked to better performance on a task that requires them to prevent themselves from giving the “obvious” response. In that task, they were asked to say “night” when viewing the picture of a sun and “day” when viewing a picture of a moon.

Evans notes that even though children appear able to lie at a much earlier age than previously believed, younger children tend to give away the fact that they lied if asked follow-up questions, such as the identity of the toy.

She said that gives parents the opportunity to talk about what is right or wrong.


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