Little Lie Detectors
Obama says kids can tell Romney is a fibber. Are children actually good at divining the truth?
When President Obama learned that the 6-year-old daughter of Rolling Stone interviewer Douglas Brinkley supported his candidacy, he responded, “[K]ids have good instincts. They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.’ ” Are children really that good at sniffing out lies?
No. Lie detection is a complex skill that improves with age, and studies have repeatedly shown that young children are exceptionally poor at identifying deception. In a 1982 study published in the journal Child Development, for example, participants listened to a series of speakers describing people they purported to like or dislike. Some of the speakers were telling the truth, while others were lying. Children in sixth grade performed worse than random chance in identifying the liars, while eighth-graders just about matched random chance. Twelfth graders and college students demonstrated significantly more skill at detecting deception.