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Kids who can understand others’ thoughts likelier to lie

Washington: As per a recent study, kids who are taught to reason about the mental states of others are more likely to use deception to win a reward.

The findings indicate that developing “theory of mind” (ToM), a cognitive ability critical to many social interactions, may enable children to engage in the sophisticated thinking necessary for intentionally deceiving another person.

Telling a lie successfully requires deliberately creating a false belief in the mind of the lie recipient, and ToM could provide an important cognitive tool to enable children to do so, the researchers write.

Research suggests that children begin to tell lies somewhere around ages 2 and 3, and studies have shown a correlation between children’s theory of mind and their tendency to lie.

While the findings don’t shed light on the specific components of training that underlie the effect, the researchers believe their findings provide concrete evidence for a causal link between theory of mind and social behaviors like lying.

By increasing their sensitivity to mental states and engaging them in reasoning about false beliefs, researchers enabled young children not only to quickly apply their newly acquired knowledge to solve a problem in a social situation but also to continue to do so more than a month later, researchers wrote.

They added that taken together, these two findings also suggest that children were not just mechanically memorizing what they were taught in the ToM training sessions; rather, they were able to consolidate the knowledge and use it adaptively to solve a social problem they were facing.

The study is published in Psychological Science. (ANI)