Learning how to fib can be good for the brains of preschool children

LONDON – Most children do not learn to lie from childhood.

But a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto has shown that learning fib may have broad cognitive benefits.

A group of 42 children in kindergarten – none of whom seemed to be lying – was divided into two factions: a control group and another group that learned how to lie to win a hide-and-seek.

The group of boys and girls with an average age of about 40 months played a game where they had to hide a snack, such as popcorn, for an adult in the course of four days. As part of the game, the adult had to choose which hand the child had hidden in the popcorn.

If the child was able to deceive the adult, they could keep the treat.

Each child was then given a standardized test for executing executive functions, including things like theory of mind, or the ability to understand the intentions of others, as well as the ability to pay attention, stay focused on tasks, organize, set priorities and plan effectively.

They found that the children who were taught to deceive ultimately outperformed the control group.

& # 39; With just a few days of instruction, young children quickly learned to deceive and immediately derive cognitive benefits from them, the researchers wrote. More generally, these findings support the idea that even seemingly negative human social behaviors can have cognitive benefits when such behaviors require the pursuit of goals, problem solving, mental state tracking and perspective tracking. # 39;

Researchers say that the study is the first evidence & # 39; is that learning to lie can actually improve the cognitive skills of children in kindergarten.

As parents and teachers – and society as a whole – we always worry that if a child is lying there will be terrible consequences & # 39 ;, said Kang Lee, a co-author of the study who has researched how children lie more than two decades. & # 39; But it turns out that there is a big difference between children who lie before and people who lie later.

& # 39; The children who lie earlier, generally have much better cognitive skills & # 39 ;, he added.

However, it does not mean that all parents have to teach their children to lie.

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