(ORDO NEWS) — “A good child always tells the truth” is what parents try to instill in their children in words, but in reality their actions sometimes contradict these moral principles.
As a result, the child learns to be not an “honest simpleton”, but a “polite liar”, who is able, if necessary, to hide an unpleasant truth – after all, there are more chances that he will be praised.
“The truth is good” is too simple an attitude for a complex human society, and as it develops, the child begins to increasingly face the fact that he suffers more for the truth than for a lie.
“I don’t want this dress, it’s ugly” are words that, if completely honest, can lead to severe punishment, rather than polite gratitude, after which you can put the clothes you don’t like in the closet.
Not surprisingly, children learn to lie from an early age, although we still know little about how this skill is formed and developed.
Undoubtedly, it appears due to the inconsistency of the surrounding social environment, when in words the parents assure that it is bad to lie, but by their actions they can push the baby to tell a lie.
To illustrate how parents’ words about the unacceptability of lies can diverge from their attitudes and actions, two American scientists from Texas State University and the City University of New Yorkasked 267 adults to watch videos of children aged six to 15.
In some of the situations demonstrated, the children lied to protect others (for example, the child lied about the whereabouts of a sister who had problems with her parents), in others it was a “polite lie” so as not to hurt someone’s feelings.
The adults looked at four scenarios for the development of the same situation: for example, in the case of a hiding sister, the child could say that she had gone to the library (“straight lie”), that she must have already gone to bed (“subtle lie”), that she somewhere outside (“subtle truth”) and that she is hiding under the porch (“straight truth”).
After watching each video, participants rated their impressions of the child, including their trustworthiness, kindness, competence, attractiveness, intelligence, and honesty.
While imagining themselves as parents, participants rated the likelihood that they would punish or reward a child for lying or telling the truth.
The results showed that in situations of polite lying, adults judged those who told the truth directly more severely than those who lied or spoke vague truth.
If the children resorted to deceit in order to protect others, the truth or lie in their statements had little effect on the attitude of adults towards them.
Although most of the participants admitted that in the situation with the sister in hiding, they would rather reward the child who told the “subtle truth” (“I think she is somewhere outside”) than honestly betraying the sister to the parents.
Thus, scientists say, in a complex social context, when parents say one thing and approve or disapprove another, children from an early age learn to skillfully lie in order to meet the expectations of adults.
This process is part of natural socialization, so adults should constantly assess the context of the situation in which the lie was uttered in order to assess its social acceptability and, if necessary, correct the child’s behavior.
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