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Are You Inadvertently Teaching Your Kid To Lie?

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.