At what age are you most likely to lie?
In Walt Disney’s adaption of Pinocchio, the puppet-boy is most notorious for his nose growing every time he tells a lie. While most have been in Pinocchio’s shoes before, a group of researchers decided to look more closely at lying throughout a person’s lifetime.
In the first study of its kind, researchers from the University of Amsterdam investigated what age lying was most frequent and what age people lied the best. Teenagers were found to lie the most, but college-age and young adults between the 18 and 29 years old were the most skilled at it.
“People lie for a range of reasons,” says Dr. Joanne May, director of outpatient behavior services at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “They might lie when they are kids to get what they want. Adolescents may lie to protect themselves or avoid punishment. And adults may lie to look good, gain financially or socially, or avoid negative consequences.”
During their entire life, 1,005 people were tracked starting at age six to 77 years old. Participants were asked to self-report how many times they told a lie each day.
Results showed that on average participants told two lies a day, but the frequency of lies peaked in the teen years at 2.8 lies daily and then declined as participants entered their adult years, dropping as the participants matured in age.
Meanwhile, participants were asked to answer certain yes or no questions with an obvious answer. For instance, “Can pigs fly?” or “Is the grass green?” Then they measured how long it took participants to answer.
“Typically, people are slower and make more errors when lying, and this was taken as an index of the difficulty of lying,” said coauthor Bruno Verschuere in a news release.
Dr. May wants parents to understand that all kids fib at some point in their life – it’s a part of growing up. However, parents have a key role in teaching their children to develop truthful habits.
“The truth isn’t always easy to hear, but if adolescents and parents can work cohesively by having continual open dialogue it prevents adolescents from wanting to lie during difficult moments,” she says. “Encourage your son or daughter to tell the truth no matter how bad. A parental reaction of yelling, preaching or becoming noticeably angry will only invoke kids toward shading the truth in order to avoid an angry confrontation.
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