Children are born into this world as oblivious poop machines until, at some point, they begin to acquire all the skills necessary to survive — walking, talking, deceiving others to get whatever the hell they want. Now, a new study suggests teaching kids to better understand how other people think makes them more prone to lying.
Child psychology researchers from 4 separate universities conducted a series of tests to identify kids around the age of 3 who had not yet begun lying. Of the resulting 42 subjects who’d never worn their pants afire, some were given theory-of-mind (ToM) training that encouraged them to reason about other people’s thoughts, while a control group was simply given tasks on quantitative reasoning. The ToM group members were each given a pencil box, asked what they thought was inside, shown that the box was empty, and then asked what they thought others might believe is in the box. After 6 days of this training, the ToM members learned the difference between believing and knowing, and they learned that not everyone knows or believes the same things. They also developed a profound understanding of pencil boxes. The study found that toddlers who underwent ToM training, when later presented with the original test to determine if they would tell a fib, were more likely to bullshit the researchers this time around than members of the control group. “Telling a lie successfully requires deliberately creating a false belief in the mind of the lie recipient, and ToM could provide an important cognitive tool to enable children to do so,” the researchers write in a study published in Psychological Science.
Though the study doesn’t flat out say that you can teach children to become better liars, it’s not hard to read between the lines here: If you want your kid to have a successful career as a politician, you might as well start some aggressive ToM training early. Tiger Woods didn’t become great at golf because his dad never made him pick up a golf club. Actually, in retrospect, Tiger Woods’ dad must have given him plenty of ToM training too.