At the ripe old age of 3, my older daughter has begun flirting with falsehoods. So far, the few lies she has told have been comically bad and easy to spot. Her dad and I usually laugh at them with an amused, “Oh, yeah?” But now that I’ve stopped to consider, that strategy seems flawed.
While reporting a story on adult lying, I had the pleasure of talking with developmental psychologist Victoria Talwar of McGill University, who studies lying in children. I told her about an episode last week, in which I watched my older daughter swat my younger one. Instead of simply accepting reality and scolding her, my reaction was to question it further. “Did you just hit your sister?” After a pause, the guilty one offered a slightly confused “no.”