Young Children Selectively Hide the Truth About Sensitive Topics

Cognitive Science 44 (3):e12824 (2020)
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Abstract

Starting in early childhood, children are socialized to be honest. However, they are also expected to avoid telling the truth in sensitive situations if doing so could be seen as inappropriate or impolite. Across two studies (total N = 358), the reasoning of 3‐ to 5‐year‐old children in such a scenario was investigated by manipulating whether the information in question would be helpful to the recipient. The studies used a reverse rouge paradigm, in which a confederate with a highly salient red mark on her nose asked children whether she looked okay prior to having her picture taken. In Study 1, children tended to tell the truth only if they were able to observe that the mark was temporary and the confederate did not know it was there. In Study 2, children tended to tell the truth only if they were able to observe that the mark could be concealed with makeup. These findings show that for children as young as age 3, decisions about whether to tell the truth are influenced by the likelihood that the information would be helpful to the recipient.

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Kang sun Lee
Sungkyunkwan University

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