A new study conducted by the University of Sheffield reveals that if your little munchkin has a great memory that allows them to easily remember things, or a rich imagination that allows them to spin creative tales out of nothing, they’re most likely really good liars too.
Dr. Elena Hoicka, expert at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology has a nice way to look at it: “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”.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, informs that there is a strong link between children who have good memory and verbal skills and children who are good liars. The researchers’ working theory is that these skill sets develop to the difficulty one would otherwise encounter when attempting to keep their lies straight.
For the study, the team from the University of Sheffield looked at 137 subjects between the ages of six (6) and seven (7) who invited to the lab to take a trivia test. The researchers had three (3) index cards, each with a question printed on them. After a child answered the question, the experts would turn the card around in order to reveal if the subject answered it right or wrong.
The third question was the real test. Researchers asked subjects to answer a fictional question – what was the name of the child in Spaceboy, a non-existent cartoon. They left the rooms, sometimes telling a subject nit to look at the answer printed on the back of the card, sometime not telling them anything.
The rooms had hidden cameras so that the researchers could monitor the behavior of their subjects. Some looked at the answer, some didn’t. When they came into the room, the researchers asked those who had looked at the answer whether or not they knew what the answer was, as well as if they had any idea what the details on the back of the card were – each printed answer was written a specific color and had a specific image next to it.
This approach helped the team assess how good of a liar each child was. Those who were good liars lied about both details on the back of the card, while those who were bad liars only lied about one or neither of them. They also found that the subjects labeled good liars also had higher scores on verbal working memory tests, when compared to bad liars.
Dr. Tracy Alloway with the University of Sheffield gave a statement explaining that you need to put in mental effort in order to keep in mind what you said and did, as well as what you believe the researcher knows, and also manage to put together a plan that keeps you from getting caught.
She went on to add that there was a clear difference in physicality and behavior between good liars and bad liars. Bad liars with poor memory got worked up while answering the questions untruthfully, whereas good liars with good memories were very relaxed while answering the questions untruthfully and usually even gave fake explanations for how they knew the right answer.
Dr. Hoicka was fascinated by the discovery of why some kids can tell better lies than others, and informed that the scientific community was already well aware that adults lie in roughly a fifth of social interactions that last at least ten (10) minutes or more. The next step for her and her colleagues is to try and understand how children learn to lie in the first place.
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