Liar, Liar Pants on Fire: study proves children as young as two capable of lying
So often in our defence of clients charged with crimes against children, we hear the refrain from prosecutors, “why would a child lie?”
Well, it turns out that children, perhaps even more so than adults, don’t really need a reason to lie. They start lying at a younger age than we might expect and they can be surprisingly good at it. The results are detailed in a new study in the journal Developmental Psychology and summarized here. Researchers at two Canadian universities placed 41 two-year-olds and 24 three-year-olds in a room and asked them to guess the identity of a hidden toy by its sound. Once they guessed two toys correctly, the researcher would leave the room briefly, instructing the kids not to peek at the third and final box. Hidden cameras revealed that curiosity got the better of 80% of the children who peeked at the hidden toy, yet 40% of the ‘peekers’ lied when asked about it.
No one wants to see children harmed by the very adults who are responsible for their care but studies such as this one demonstrate how important it is not to take the word of a witness at face value – even if that witness is an adorable fibbing two-year-old.