Lying is inevitable part of our everyday lives. Sometimes we lie, sometimes we are lied to. Sometimes it is just a simple lie about who puts presents for children under the Christmas tree, sometimes it is a big lie trying to get out of trouble. And we all know that some people are better liars than others and now scientists think they know why. Researchers from the University of North Florida and the University of Sheffield, U.K. for the first time have showed that working memory helps children tell better lies.
To tell simply, the result of the research is – the higher a child’s verbal working memory, the better their ability to process the verbal information necessary to tell a believable lie. Dr. Tracy Alloway, one of the lead researchers in this new study, said that “this research shows that thought processes, specifically verbal working memory, are important to complex social interactions, like lying, because the children needed to juggle multiple pieces of information while keeping the researcher’s perspective in mind”. Working memory is the ability to process information, which was tested during the research.
In the research there were 137 children ages 6 to 7 years old and had their verbal working memory tested. Scientists asked them a series of trivia questions written on a card. Children were aware that the answers were written on the back of the card in different colours, along with a picture. To test the lying ability the researchers left the room after telling participants not to look to the other side of the card for the answer.
Of course, in order to know who is lying, there was a hidden camera, observing the kids showing who looked at the back of the card for the answer. Then, after a certain period of time, researchers were back and asked the answer to a question. Those who looked to the other side of the card answered correctly. However, the way scientists figured out the lying abilities of the children was way more sophisticated.
The researchers asked children, who peeked at the answer, about the colour the answer was written in and the picture. Children with higher verbal working memory answered them wrong in order to verbally disguise that they peeked, even though were asked not to. However, children with lower verbal working memory answered the entrapment questions correctly, verbally revealing that they had looked to the other side of the card.
To develop research further, scientists also tested visuo-spatial working memory of the children. Simply put, it is ability to process visual information, like images and numbers. However, differently than with verbal working memory, there was no association between avoiding entrapment and visuo-spatial working memory ability. Scientists think it is because lying requires verbal information and not visual.
Scientists say that researching lying is a rather interesting field of study, since it is known that adults lie in approximately a fifth of their social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes. This is the first study to connect verbal working memory and good lying abilities. Results mean that, although lying kids are still not a pleasant surprise for their parents, good liars tend to be more intelligent.