Repost: Punishing kids for lying doesn’t work, study suggests

Reposted from World Science:

If you want your child to be truth­ful, it’s best not to threat­en pun­ish­ment if she or he lies, a study sug­gests: child­ren are more likely to tell the truth ei­ther to please an adult or be­cause they be­lieve it’s the right thing to do.

That’s what psy­chol­o­gists found through an ex­pe­ri­ment in­volv­ing 372 chil­dren be­tween the ages of 4 and 8.

“If chil­dren fear po­ten­tial neg­a­tive out­comes for dis­clos­ing in­forma­t­ion, they may be more re­luc­tant to dis­close,” the re­search­ers, led by Vic­to­ria Tal­war of McGill Uni­vers­ity in Can­a­da, wrote in a pa­per for the Feb. 2015 is­sue of the Jour­nal of Ex­pe­ri­men­tal Child Psy­chol­o­gy.

The re­search­ers left each child alone in a room for a min­ute with a toy be­hind them on a ta­ble, hav­ing told the child not to peek dur­ing their ab­sence. Ex­pe­ri­menters told some of the chil­dren they would “be in trou­ble” if they lied about that, while for oth­er young­sters the ex­pe­ri­menters men­tioned only pos­i­tive rea­sons for tell­ing the truth.

A hid­den vi­deo cam­era filmed what went on while the child was alone. Up­on re­turn­ing, the ex­pe­ri­menter would ask: “When I was gone, did you turn around and peak at the toy?”

About two-thirds of the chil­dren peeked, though for eve­ry one month in­crease in age, chil­dren be­came slightly less likely to peek, the study found. More­o­ver, about two-thirds of the peek­ers lied about hav­ing looked, and month-by-month as chil­dren aged, they both be­come more likely to tell lies and more ad­ept at main­tain­ing their lies.

The re­search­ers al­so found that the threat of be­ing “in trou­ble” alone led to more than twice the rate of ly­ing as the ap­peals to con­science or good feel­ings alone. Com­bina­t­ions of both types of in­duce­ments led to in-be­tween re­sults.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors al­so ex­pected and found, they said, that while young­er chil­dren were more fo­cused on tell­ing the truth to please the adults, old­er chil­dren had bet­ter in­ter­nal­ized stan­dards of be­hav­ior that made them tell the truth be­cause it was the right thing to do.

“The bot­tom line is that pun­ish­ment does not pro­mote truth-tell­ing,” said Tal­war. “In fact, the threat of pun­ish­ment can have the re­verse ef­fect by re­duc­ing the like­li­hood that chil­dren will tell the truth when encoura­ged to do so.”

 

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