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May 28, 2005

Yeah, right

Children become cynical at an early age, according to an article in Psychological Science:

The first part of the two-part study included 20 children each in kindergarten, second grade and fourth grade. The children were told very short stories in which characters made statements about the outcomes of contests that were in or against their self-interest. Children of all ages believed true statements more than clear lies. However, when characters made statements involving their self-interest about very close contests, children evaluated the statements in very different ways. Children in kindergarten were more likely to believe statements aligned with self-interest than statements going against self-interest, but by second grade they were much more savvy and they recognized that self-interest statements might not be accurate.
Frank Keil, [Yale] professor of psychology and linguistics and senior author of the study, added that, “By distinguishing cases of outright intentional lies from cases where we unintentionally distort the truth in self serving ways, it was possible to show that most elementary school age children are in fact harsher judges of others than adults and older children. It seems that, early on, it is much easier to see falsehoods as caused by deliberate malice than as caused unwittingly by desires.”

None of this comes as any surprise in our house.

Posted by Stephen at 6:38 PM in Humanity | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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