Lie adults or children more
Why children (have to) lie
People cheat every day. Often it is white lies or so-called prosocial lies, for example out of politeness: “This blouse looks really good on you.” The deceiver who deliberately twists the truth for his own benefit, or the blender who exaggerates excessively for self-expression, act more subtly.
Lying has to be learned
Children are not born frauds. It is not for nothing that the saying goes: the mouth of a child reveals the truth. They have to learn dishonesty first, because toddlers lack the intellectual tools to lie perfectly. Put simply, for a two or three year old there is only one reality, and that is their own. Everything he is doing, sees or thinks - according to his logic - all other people see and think too.
It is only when a child is around four years old that they are able to empathize with the thoughts of their fellow human beings. One of the reasons for this lies in the maturation of the child's brain. In children aged three to four, nerve tracts develop that connect the prefrontal cortex, the center for cognitive action planning and emotion regulation, with the temporo-parietal junction. This zone between the parietal and temporal lobes of the brain processes visual, auditory and sensory information. What does this development mean?
A child and another test person see that the study director puts an object in a box A. After the test person has left the room, the study director takes the object again and places it in a box B. The child is now asked in which box the test person will assume the object is when he comes back. Three-year-olds guess box B because the item is there after all. From his point of view, this is the only possible reality.
Only four-year-olds understand in this “false belief” test that the test person cannot know anything about the repackaging of the item because he has not observed this process. You guess box A, although you know better yourself. They understand that the subject's reality is different from their own. This high cognitive performance, known as the “Theory of Mind”, empowers the child not only to empathy and planned action, but also to consciously cheat.
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