Around Age Seven, Kids Lie More to Spare Others' Feelings

Young kids are unaware of such social constructs as “pleasantries” and “lying.” But when do we start bending the truth to spare someone else's feelings?

Kids have no filter when it comes to speaking their minds. They see something; they say something. It seems like they're unaware of such social constructs as “pleasantries” and “lying.” But when do we start bending the truth to spare someone else's feelings?

Melissa Dahl from NYMag writes that researchers Felix Warneken and Emily Orlins from Harvard wanted to know. So, they gathered a group of about 80 kids, five-year-olds, seven- and eight-year-olds, and 10- and 11-year-olds. To start, they asked the kids to sort four drawings into “good” and “bad” piles. (The images were drawn to be purposefully good or bad).

After sorting, an experimenter would come over to the child and either lament to him or her how sad she was because she wasn't any good at drawing or she would confess to not being any good at drawing, but that she was at peace with it. The experimenter would then show the child her drawing and ask which pile it belonged in.

The older kids tended to spare the sad experimenter's feelings with a white lie, and say the drawing belonged in the “good” pile. The five-year-olds were almost split with 57 percent lying to the sad experimenter, whereas 71 and 75 percent of seven- to eight- and 10- to 11-year-olds lied. Of the kids that didn't lie, not all of them were harsh critics; some of them told the experimenter that the drawing was not good, but that she should, "Keep practicing!" or telling her, "It's not bad, it's modern!"

With the experimenter who was at peace with her horrible drawing skills, 29, 29, and 8 percent of the children in these three age groups, respectively, lied.

The researchers write:

“Results showed that after modelling, children from all age groups were significantly more likely to use white lies in the Sad condition than in the Neutral condition. Taken together, these results show that children are attentive to another person's affective states when choosing whether to tell a white lie or tell the truth.”

Read more at NYMag.

Photo credit: Henrique Pinto/Flickr

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less

New alternative to Trump's wall would create jobs, renewable energy, and increase border security

A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Jorge Castillo Quiñones
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
  • The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
  • It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less