Lie to me: Research shows young liars destined for greatness?

Dennis Baron debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Fri May 21 00:51:26 UTC 2010

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Lie to me: Research shows young liars destined for greatness?

A Canadian research team has found that toddlers who lie could  
actually wind up more successful than those who tell the truth.

At least that’s what the BBC claims in its report on a new study which  
proves that learning to lie represents a “developmental milestone” and  
that “the complex brain processes involved in formulating a lie are an  
indicator of a child’s early intelligence.” And the London Times  
gleefully adds, “Scientists have discovered that a child who claims  
‘the dog ate my homework’ may have a future career in the City  
(London’s version of Wall Street).”

Newspapers, TV, and blogs are having a field day repeating the story  
that young liars have what it takes to succeed later in life, as if  
precocious prevaricators could explain everything from the subprime  
mortgage débacle to the Iraq War, the impeachments of Bill Clinton and  
Rod Blagojevich, and Al Franken’s critique of liars on the extreme  

But it turns out that most of the reporting on this study of lies and  
the lying children who tell them isn’t very accurate. To put it  
bluntly, the media are lying about the research. Whatever you may have  
read in the papers, developmental psychologists are not claiming that  
lying is the key to getting ahead.

find out what they are claiming -- read the Web of Language
Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

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