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22. Young children’s emerging ability to make false statements.
Developmental Psychology (Published 2011) (2010)
  • Thomas D. Lyon, University of Southern California
  • Elizabeth C. Ahern, University of Cambridge
  • Jodi A. Quas, University of California, Irvine
This study examined the origins of children’s ability to make consciously false statements, a necessary component of lying. Children 2 to 5 years of age were rewarded for claiming that they saw a picture of a bird when viewing pictures of fish. They were asked outcome questions (“Do you win/lose?”), recognition questions (“Do you have a bird/fish?”), and recall questions (“What do you have?”), which were hypothesized to vary in difficulty depending on the need for consciousness of falsity (less for outcome questions) and self-generation of an appropriate response (more for recall questions). The youngest children (21⁄2 to 31⁄2 years old) were above chance on outcome questions, but it was not until age 31⁄2 that children performed above chance on recognition questions or were capable of maintaining false claims across question types. Findings have implications for understanding the emergence of deception in young children.
  • child witnesses,
  • child abuse,
  • child neglect,
  • child development,
  • child psychology
Publication Date
May, 2010
Citation Information
Ahern, E. C., Lyon, T. D., & Quas, J. A. (2011). Young children’s emerging ability to make false statements. Developmental Psychology, 47, 61-66.