lying about raiding the biscuit tin or denying they broke a toy, all
children try to mislead their parents at some time. Yet it now appears
that babies learn to deceive from a far younger age than anyone
Behavioural experts have
found that infants begin to lie from as young as six months. Simple
fibs help to train them for more complex deceptions in later life.
Until now, psychologists had thought the developing brains were not capable of the difficult art of lying until four years old.
studies of more than 50 children and interviews with parents, Dr
Vasudevi Reddy, of the University of Portsmouth's psychology
department, says she has identified seven categories of deception used
between six months and three-years-old.
quickly learnt that using tactics such as fake crying and pretend
laughing could win them attention. By eight months, more difficult
deceptions became apparent, such as concealing forbidden activities or
trying to distract parents' attention.
By the age of two, toddlers could use far more devious techniques, such as bluffing when threatened with a punishment.
Reddy said: "Fake crying is one of the earliest forms of deception to
emerge, and infants use it to get attention even though nothing is
wrong. You can tell, as they will then pause while they wait to hear if
their mother is responding, before crying again.
demonstrates they're clearly able to distinguish that what they are
doing will have an effect. This is essentially all adults do when they
tell lies, except in adults it becomes more morally loaded."
added: "Later it becomes more sophisticated by saying, 'I don't care'
when threatened with a punishment - when they clearly do."
Reddy thinks children use early fibs to discover what kinds of lie work
in certain situations, and also learn the negative consequences of
lying too much.