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New Study Shows Working Memory Linked To Lying Ability In Children

The Journal of Experimental Child Psychology just published a very interesting study that showed children who have a good memory are good at lying.

The study:

  • 137 children were interviewed by researchers
  • The children were 6 and 7 years old
  • The children played a trivia game
  • Researchers told the children the answers were on the backs of the cards with different colors and pictures
  • The children were asked not to look at the answers while they left the room
  • Hidden cameras were set up so researchers could see if the children cheated and peeked at the answers or not
  • The researchers then questioned the children, asking the color of the answer on the cards (which they would only know by cheating)

The researchers asking the “entrapment” question was bait to see if the participants would be good at lying about cheating or not. The children who had cheated, knew what color or picture was on the back of the cards. Children who were good at lying would intentionally say the wrong color or picture to give the impression that they didn’t cheat! While the “bad” liars would correctly answer the questions.

So what was common amongst the “good” liars? The researchers found a correlation between the children’s working memory (which means their ability to process information) and their ability to “tell a believable lie”. The children who were the best liars were able to keep track of verbal information better than the children who told less convincing lies. It was reported that this is the first time the connection between lying and a verbal working memory has been shown.

Tracy Alloway was leading the project from the University of North Florida. She 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.”

Also tested was the children’s visuo-spatial working memory which researchers describe as “our ability to process visual information.” Results showed that there was no difference between good and bad liars with regards to the visuo-spatial working memory tests. What that means is that telling a compelling lie involves verbal information, not visual.

Elena Hoicka is from the Psychology department at the University of Sheffield. She said:

“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. 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.”

Oh the lies we weave! Do you not know if your kid is lying to you? Well take pride in that…maybe they are just really smart and great little liars!

Newsy Science “Smarter Kids Might Be Better Liars” Youtube. 22 June 2015. Web. 22 June 2015.

About Krystal Tucker

Krystal Tucker
Krystal is a 25 year old writer. She's been a passionate hobbyist for the last few years dabbling in painting, poetry, sculpting, wood work, makeup, jewelry and recently, gardening. When she isn't busy creating, she enjoys her time watching movies and hiking with her husband and two dogs. Poke around, get hooked and come back to read more!! Contact Krystal: