The Upside to Lying: Dr. Robyn Silverman Discusses on Good Morning America

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How about THIS for a new spin on lying? A new study suggests that kids with a good memory also happen to be good liars!

We all know that lying is pervasive in childhood. So perhaps it’s good for parents to know a marker for good liars is having good working memories—in particular, good verbal memories, which makes sense because they need to remember what they said and who they said it to so they can keep all their lies straight.

The new study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology shows that when the researchers from the University of Sheffield gathered more than 100 children, ages six and seven, and told them not to peek at the answers on the back of a card detailing a fictitious cartoon character, the best liars were revealed. Then researchers questioned the children, spotted the liars, and evaluated their ability to lie in the face of two questions that would catch them red-handed. The “best” liars told a whammy each time, while poor liars did it only once or not at all.

It takes mental effort to keep all the stories straight—so the researchers conclude that the liars may have better working memories and may even be “smarter.”

We explored a few key questions this morning on Good Morning America.GMA_childrenlying_800_400

So many parents would say they didn’t teach their children to lie, but rather that it seems like an innate behavior. So, where are they learning it and why do they do it?

Research has told us that 1 in 5 interactions are lies! Adults and children do it. Some people lie because it gets them out of trouble while others lie because the truth would make someone feel bad. Still others lie because they may find it fun to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. Some of the reasons are socially acceptable like when a child lies to Grandma and tells her that he absolutely loves the itchy pea-green sweater she made him and other times we just want them to tell the truth.

In general, how can parents handle lying and truth-telling?

Lying needs to be dealt with swiftly, consistently and over time. Parents can act in a variety of different ways.

  • Talk about honesty as a family value. Let your child know that honesty is a powerful word that you find important and open up a discussion on why.
  • Show them what a truthful person looks and sounds like! Adults need to be positive examples in the lives of children. It’s not always easy, but they need to watch honesty in action!
  • Ensure that truth-telling is beneficial: If your children consistently get in trouble when they tell the truth, prepare yourself for a lot more lies! Of course, they need to be accountable—but that’s different that punishment.
  • Teach them to gut-check: If the words coming out of their mouths make them feel dizzy in the head, hot in the face and like there is a knot in their stomach, they may be going down the wrong path. Lying and guilt do not feel good!

The study indicates the potential upside to lying- a better verbal memory, more creative storytelling, but it’s a terrible habit for children to get into. How can parents foster those good traits without the lying?

We can give our children a context where storytelling is OK! Make up stories together. Let your imaginations go wild! When children are given a socially acceptable outlet for storytelling, they learn when story-telling is appropriate and when it’s best to tell the truth.

If a child appears to continue to lie, despite a parents’ best efforts, what then? When is it a real problem?

Lying is a real problem when it takes over the normal function of everyday life. If parents feel that they never believe their child, that they can’t trust their child and that they are lying in a host of circumstances, I would encourage them to ask their doctor for some professional advice.

RossLynchExtra bonus! On my way out of GMA, I met the very sweet, Ross Lynch from R5 and Teen Beach Movie, Teen Beach Movie 2! What fun! And of course, who could miss the photobomber in the back of the photo? One of the dancers!

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