Kids With Good Memories Make Better Liars

Researchers have discovered that children with good memories are much better at covering up lies.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield found a link between verbal memory and covering up lies following a study that investigated the role of working memory in verbal deception in children.

For the study, children six and seven years old were given the opportunity to do something they were instructed not to — peek at the final answers on the back of a card during a trivia game.

A hidden camera and correct answers to the question, which was based on the name of a fictitious cartoon character, enabled the researchers to identify who had peeked, despite the children’s denials.

Further questioning, including about the color of the answer on the cards, allowed researchers to identify who was a good liar, by lying to both entrapment questions, or a bad liar, by lying about one or none of the entrapment questions.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield and the University of North Florida then measured two elements: Verbal and visuo-spatial working memory in the children.

Verbal working memory is the number of words a person can remember at the same time. Visuo-spatial working memory is the number of images a person can remember at the same time, the researchers explained.

The study’s results showed that the good liars performed better in the verbal working memory test in both processing and recall.

The link between lying and verbal memory is thought to stem from the fact that covering up lies involves keeping track of lots of verbal information, the researchers postulate. As a result, kids who possessed better memories and could keep track of lots of information were able to successfully make up and maintain a cover story for their lie.

In contrast, there was no difference in visuo-spatial working scores between good and bad liars. The researchers suspect this is because lying usually doesn’t involve keeping track of images, so visuo-spatial information is less important.

“While parents are usually not too proud when their kids lie, they can at least be pleased to discover that when their children are lying well, it means their children are becoming better at thinking and have good memory skills,” said Dr. Elena Hoicka, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of 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 more porkies than others. We’ll now be looking to move the research forward to discover more about how children first learn to lie.”

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Source: University of Sheffield