Researchers at the University of Toronto and Brock University have found that yes, it’s true, your toddler is lying to you.
As the first study of its kind, the experiment showed that children as young as two are capable of lying. Sure, they may not yet use the potty, but they can figure out how to deceive you.
In fact, lying indicates a new level of cognitive development. Researcher Kang Lee tells Global News, ““Lying is quite a sophisticated skill.” It requires both executive functioning and theory of mind, that is, the ability to understand another person’s mental state
The study involved both two and three year olds. The children individually participated in a game where they had to guess what a hidden toy was by the sound it made. So “vroom” for a car, as an example. After two toys were successfully guessed, the kids were told that if they got their third guess right, they’d win a prize.
At that point, the researchers would leave the room with some excuse, warning the children they were not allowed to peek at the toy in order to get the correct answer. Well, adults would be hard pressed not to peek, so it wasn’t surprising that hidden cameras showed that 80 percent of the kids peeked at the toy.
When asked if they peeked, 40 percent of the “peekers” lied. And what was surprising is that approximately 25 percent of the two year olds were in that group. It was previously believed that two year olds did not yet have the cognitive ability to lie. (Not by any parent of course!)
As the mother of a two year old, I wasn’t surprised by this outcome. What I was intrigued to learn is that lying isn’t necessarily any gauge on morality at this age, but rather of mental development. My pretty little liar has only lied on a few occasions–”Did you spill these Cheerios all over the floor?” “No…”–and to be fair, I wasn’t always sure if she even fully understood what I was asking, but it’s good to know it means that she’s just testing out a new skill.
What about your little ones? Are they testing out their lying skills?