The Relation between Young Children's False Response Latency, Executive Functioning, and Truth-Lie Understanding

34 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2017 Last revised: 31 Mar 2019

See all articles by Shanna Williams

Shanna Williams

University of Southern California

Elizabeth Ahern

University of Cambridge

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: March 29, 2019

Abstract

This study examined relations between children’s false statements and response latency, executive functioning, and truth-lie understanding in order to understand what underlies children’s emerging ability to make false statements. A total of 158 (2- to 5-year-old) children earned prizes for claiming that they were looking at birds even when presented with images of fish. Children were asked recall (“what do you have?”), recognition (“do you have a bird/fish?”), and outcome (“did you win/lose?”) questions. Response latencies were greater when children were presented with fish pictures than bird pictures, particularly when they were asked recall questions, and were greater for false statements than for true statements, again when children were asked recall questions. Older but not younger children exhibited longer latencies when making false responses to outcome questions, suggesting that younger children were providing impulsive desire-based responses to the outcome questions. Executive functioning, as measured by the day-night Stroop task, was not related to false statements. Children who were better at labeling statements on a truth-lie identification task were more proficient at making false statements. The results support the proposition that the cognitive effort required for making false statements is dependent upon the types of questions asked.

Suggested Citation

Williams, Shanna and Ahern, Elizabeth and Lyon, Thomas D., The Relation between Young Children's False Response Latency, Executive Functioning, and Truth-Lie Understanding (March 29, 2019). 65 Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 81-100 (2019); USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 17-25; USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS17-26. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3071025 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3071025

Shanna Williams

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Elizabeth Ahern

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Thomas D. Lyon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0142 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

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