Of Course the Tooth Fairy’s Real: How Parents Lie in the U.S. and China

Jan. 21, 2013 — Almost everyone teaches their children that lying is always wrong. But the vast majority of parents lie to their children in order to get them to behave, according to new research published in theInternational Journal of Psychology.


The study by Gail Heyman of the University of California-San Diego and her colleagues found certain variations but generally similar trends in the way parents from the US and China use the slippery concept of ‘truth’ to their advantage:

The percentage of parents who reported lying to their children for the purpose of getting them to behave appropriately was higher in China (98%) than in the U.S. (84%), but rates for other types of lies were similar between the two countries. A possible explanation for this difference is that Chinese parents are more likely than in the U.S. to demand compliance from their kids, and will go to greater lengths to make it happen.

Both Chinese and American parents seem to be comfortable lying to their children in order to promote positive feelings, and to support belief in the existence of fantasy characters like the Tooth Fairy.

Parents in both countries reported telling lies about a wide range of similar topics, including ones designed to influence their children’s eating habits, or to dissuade children’s pleas for toys or treats when shopping!

Certain specific lies are extremely common among parents in both countries, such as a false threat to abandon a child who refuses to follow the parent while away from home.

There are good reasons however to be cautious about lying to children. Previous studies have shown that when young children are deciding whom to trust they are sensitive to people’s history of being honest or dishonest with them personally, so when parents lie to their children it may undermine the child’s sense of trust.

These findings suggest parents should choose their battles wisely: is it really that important for them to finish all their peas? Alternative ways to encourage children to behave — such as a system of rewards — might have less risk of confusing them with conflicting ideas about honesty. Above all this study shows the need to stimulate debate about the acceptability of lying under different circumstances, and how children should be best raised to understand the value of honesty.


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byTaylor & Francis, via AlphaGalileo.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gail D. Heyman, Anna S. Hsu, Genyue Fu, Kang Lee.Instrumental lying by parents in the US and China.International Journal of Psychology, 2012; : 1 DOI:10.1080/00207594.2012.746463
Taylor & Francis (2013, January 21). Of course the Tooth Fairy’s real: How parents lie in the U.S. and China. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130121083219.htm
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The Eyes Don’t Have It: New Research Into Lying and Eye Movements

ScienceDaily (July 11, 2012) — Widely held beliefs about Neuro-Linguistic Programming and lying are unfounded.


Proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) have long claimed that it is possible to tell whether a person is lying from their eye movements.  Research published July 11 in the journal PLoS ONE reveals that this claim is unfounded, with the authors calling on the public and organisations to abandon this approach to lie detection.

For decades many NLP practitioners have claimed that when a person looks up to their right they are likely to be lying, whilst a glance up to their left is indicative of telling the truth.

Professor Richard Wiseman (University of Hertfordshire, UK) and Dr Caroline Watt (University of Edinburgh, UK) tested this idea by filming volunteers as they either lied or told the truth, and then carefully coded their eye movements.  In a second study another group of participants was asked to watch the films and attempt to detect the lies on the basis of the volunteers’ eye movements.

“The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills,” noted Wiseman.

A final study involved moving out of the laboratory and was conducted in collaboration with Dr Leanne ten Brinke and Professor Stephen Porter from the University of British Columbia, Canada.  The team analysed films of liars and truth tellers from high profile press conferences in which people were appealing for missing relatives or claimed to have been the victim of a crime.

“Our previous research with these films suggests that there are significant differences in the behaviour of liars and truth tellers,” noted Dr Leanne ten Brinke. “However, the alleged tell-tale pattern of eye movements failed to emerge.”

“A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses.  Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit” remarked Watt.

 

Journal Reference:

  1. Richard Wiseman, Caroline Watt, Leanne ten Brinke, Stephen Porter, Sara-Louise Couper, Calum Rankin. The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (7): e40259 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040259