Psychology of Memory: Children With Good Memories Make Better Liars
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Children with good memories make better liars: Results from a Psychology of memory study, confirm the fact that telling a believable lie requires processing of verbal rather than visual information.
Researchers from the University of North Florida and the University of Sheffield, UK have made an interesting discovery into how working memory could help children become better liars.
Dr. Tracy Alloway, associate professor of psychology at UNF and one of the lead researchers, said the study demonstrated that the associations between thought processes and verbal working memory played an important role in social interactions, one of which is lying. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
“We already know that adults lie in approximately a fifth of their social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes, so it’s interesting to know why some children are able to tell better lies than others,” said Dr. Elena Hoika, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield.
Working memory refers to the ability to process information. The higher this skill, the better is the child’s ability to process and modify information necessary to tell a believable lie. For this study, the verbal working memory of 137 children between the ages of six to seven years was tested. They were then tested on a series of trivia questions written on a card.
The children knew that the answers to the questions were written on the back of the card, in varying colors with different pictures. The researchers left the children alone with cards and instructed them not to look at the answers.
The children were then observed using a hidden camera to record which of them looked at the back of the card. When the children were asked to answer the questions, the ones who had peeked at the back answered correctly.
However, when they were asked entrapment questions about the color of the answer and the picture along with it, the children with a higher verbal working memory answered incorrectly to avoid being caught of peeking. Children with lower verbal working memory answered the entrapment questions correctly, verbally revealing that they had seen the answers.
The study also tested the visuospatial working memory of the children. This Psychology of memory refers to the ability of processing visual information, such as numbers and images. Contrary to verbal working memory, no association was seen between avoiding entrapment questions and visuospatial working memory. These results corroborate the fact that telling a believable lie requires processing of verbal rather than visual information.
“Parents sometimes become frustrated when their child lies about sticking their hand in a cookie jar, but we can take heart that the more believable the explanation for the crumbs around their mouth, the more intelligent they are,” remarked Alloway.