In the latest issue of Law and Human Behavior, an article reporting the results of a study by Gail S. Goodman and her colleagues exploring whether observers could detect children’s lies. The authors tested both adults’ ability to detect lies told by children and adults, with some interesting findings, notably that
- observers detected children’s lies more accurately than adults’ lies
- observers were more likely to detect adults’ truthful statements than children’s truthful statements
- observers who were highly accurate in detecting children’s lies were similarly accurate in detecting adults’ lies
- observers were biased toward judging adults’ but not children’s statements as truthful
In other words, the results suggest that we might be biased towards believing adults and disbelieving children. This has potentially important implications in forensic settings. For instance, might investigators and jurors be biased to believe that children are telling lies in abuse allegations? At the moment, of course, we cannot know, but it looks like an important and worthwhile area for further study.
- Gail S. Goodman, Tanya L. Luten, Robin S. Edelstein and Paul Ekman (2006). Detecting Lies in Children and Adults. Law and Human Behavior 30(1), pp.1-10.
Follow the link above for the abstract on the publisher’s website.