CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, November 24, 2017

Williams et al. on False Statements by Children

Shanna WilliamsElizabeth C. Ahern and Thomas D. Lyon (University of Southern California, University of Cambridge and University of Southern California - Gould School of Law) have posted The Relation between Young Children's False Statements and Response Latency, Executive Functioning, and Truth-Lie Understanding (Forthcoming in Merrill-Palmer Quarterly) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This study examined relations between children’s false statements and response latency, executive functioning, and truth-lie understanding in order to understand what underlies children’s emerging ability to make false statements. A total of 158 (2- to 5-year-old) children earned prizes for claiming that they were looking at birds even when presented with images of fish. Children were asked recall (“what do you have?”), recognition (“do you have a bird/fish?”), and outcome (“did you win/lose?”) questions. Response latencies were greater when children were presented with fish pictures than bird pictures, particularly when they were asked recall questions, and were greater for false statements than for true statements, again when children were asked recall questions. Older but not younger children exhibited longer latencies when making false responses to outcome questions, suggesting that younger children were providing impulsive desire-based responses to the outcome questions. Executive functioning, as measured by the day-night Stroop task, was not related to false statements. Children who were better at labeling statements on a truth-lie identification task were more proficient at making false statements. The results support the proposition that the cognitive effort required for making false statements is dependent upon the types of questions asked.

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