Social, cognitive, and social cognitive influences on children’s lie-telling
Lie-telling as a verbal form of deception may involve intentionally implanting false information in the mind of others. Lie-telling and the subsequent ability to maintain them (i.e., semantic leakage control) were examined to understand their developmental trajectory and the influences behind these capacities. One hundred twenty-one parent-child dyads (aged 3-to-6-year-olds) participated. Children were tested on inhibitory control, false belief, and a lie-telling task. Parents were measured on their use of lying to their children to control behavior, explicit socialization of lie-telling, and more general parenting practices. To test children's lie-telling abilities, they were instructed not to peek at a toy in the experimenter's absence; later, they were asked: whether they peeked (initial lie-telling), the toy's identity, and how they knew the identity if they answered correctly. Children's initial lie-telling behavior did not change with age; however, older children showed significantly higher semantic leakage control. Inhibitory control was not associated with lie-telling. Additionally, false belief understanding was not related to lie-telling behavior, but children with higher levels of semantic leakage control had greater false belief understanding. However, when controlled for age, this relation became nonsignificant. Finally, none of the parenting variables predicted semantic leakage control. However, aspects of parental socialization (i.e., encouragement and modeling of lie-telling, problematic lying, and consequences for lying) predicted lie-telling behavior. These findings suggest that children might be influenced by parental socialization of lie-telling for their decision to lie; however, their ability to maintain these lies may rely more heavily on their cognitive and social cognitive capacities.