A recent study suggests that learning to lie has cognitive benefits.
“As parents and teachers – and society as a whole – we always worry that if a kid lies there will be terrible consequences,” said Kang Lee, senior author of the study. “But it turns out there is a big difference between kids who lie earlier and those who lie later. The kids who lie earlier tend to have much better cognitive abilities.”
“With just a few days of instruction, young children quickly learned to deceive and gained immediate cognitive benefits from doing so,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
“More generally, these findings support the idea that even seemingly negative human social behaviors may confer cognitive benefits when such behaviors call for goal pursuing, problem solving, mental state tracking, and perspective taking,” they continued.
Lee has been exploring why and how kids lie for over 20 years. But the new study is “the first evidence that learning to deceive causally enhances cognitive skills in young children.”
Children can lie before they are seven years old, which the earliest cases as young as two. Despite the results, Lee isn’t suggesting that parents teach their kids to lie.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea, but it’s not a bad idea to let them play these kinds of deceptive games,” he said.
Ultimately, lying is a part of normal development, and the earlier kids learn to lie, the better.
The findings were published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.