Lying in children as a function of adult monitoring

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Virginia Tech


A procedure similar to correspondence training was used to assess the propensity of children to lie under varying levels of adult monitoring. Thirteen children selected pieces of food to be eaten later as a snack, and reported their selections to an experimenter. The manipulation involved reinforcement for reports of having selected a previously unselected food. Eleven of 13 subjects were completely honest with no differences between subjects with a history of frequent lying and subjects with a generally honest history. These data are inconsistent with previously published correspondence training studies.

Subjects may have responded to environmental cues that served as discriminative stimuli indicating that subjects' behavior was being monitored. Subjects may have entered the study with a generalized correspondence rule which left their behavior insensitive to contingencies in the protocol. Parental reports of frequent motives for lying and behavior problem scores are also reported. Suggested directions for future research within this paradigm include comparisons across levels of cognitive development, incorporating naturalistic settings with more familiar adults, examining influence of live or symbolic modeling of lying, and using more clearly aversive target behaviors.