Born Liars: Why we Start to Lie

Ian Leslie has written a fascinating new book called ‘Born Liars’ it explorers many aspects of lying from psychology right through to views of lies through history. It’s worth reading and I thought over the next few days I would post some extracts:

In a survey carried out by a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, parent and teachers were asked at what age they thought children were able to tell a considered lie – the kind where the child knows exactly what he or she is doing…Generally speaking,…, parents reported that their children started to lie more and lie better around their fourth birthday. What parents notice intuitively, psychologists have identified methodically in study after study: somewhere between three and a half and four and a half, children learn how to lie with much greater skill and enthusiasm…

So what happens to children at the age of four? According to [psychologist Vistoria] Talwar its only at this age that they truly grasp that there are other people to lie to…What children don’t have in [their] first years , what they can’t conceive yet are beliefs – that’s to say that other people might believe something different. As far as a very young child is concerned , what’s in his or her mind is the same as what’s in everybody else’s mind…It’s not until they are three or four that children discover other people have minds of their own… Of course, until you grasp that other people sometimes believe different things from you it’s impossible to think about decieving them. There’s no point telling a lie if every body believes the same things.

Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deception (28-32)

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