Six to seven-year-old children had their verbal working memory tested. They were later asked a set of trivia problems written on a paper and they were conscious that the answers were written on the back of the paper in different colors, alongside a picture. The researchers left the room and told the children not to look at the back of the paper.
A secret camera showed who looked at the back of the paper. When the researchers asked them the answer to a question, those who peeked gave the correct answer. However, when asked tricky questions concerning the color the answer was written in and the picture, those with higher verbal working memory answered them wrong, in order to verbally disguise that they peeked; those with lower verbal working memory answered the tricky questions correctly, verbally revealing that they had peeked.
Parents may sometimes become frustrated when their child lies about sticking their hand in a cookie jar, but we can take heart that the more believable the explanation for the crumbs around their mouth, the more intelligent they are.
Study Name:Liar, liar, working memory on fire: Investigating the role of working memory in childhood verbal deception.
The aim of the current study was to investigate the role of working memory in verbal deception in children. We presented 6- and 7-year-olds with a temptation resistance paradigm; they played a trivia game and were then given an opportunity to peek at the final answers on the back of a card. Measures of both verbal and visuospatial working memory were included. The good liars performed better on the verbal working memory test in both processing and recall compared with the bad liars. However, there was no difference in visuospatial working scores between good liars and bad liars. This pattern suggests that verbal working memory plays a role in processing and manipulating the multiple pieces of information involved in lie-telling.