458 Truthful Tots

Research by Bender, Jasmine; O’Connor, Alison M.; & Evans, Angela D. (2018). Mirror, mirror on the wall: Increasing young children’s honesty through inducing self-awareness. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,167, 414–422 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2017.12.001

Written by Robin N. Fatovic M.S.

To instill honesty, parents tell children, “Don’t lie.” “Be Honest.” “Promise to tell the truth. ”Since promising doesn’t seem to work for very young children, researchers thought enhancing children’s self-awareness in relationship to others would encourage their truth-telling.

They played a game with 135 children, ages 3 to 4, having them guess what toy was hidden in the room. They placed a toy behind a screen, told the child not to peek, and left. One group engaged in the self-awareness activity by identifying themselves in a mirror and pointing to their nose, eyes, ears. Another group pointed to items in the room. The researchers asked a third group of children to promise to tell the truth. Then, experimenters asked all the children if they peeked.

Results? The children who engaged in the self-awareness mirror activity told the truth more than children, who promised to tell the truth, or just identified room items. The increased self-awareness encouraged children to follow the social norm of honesty.

Parents, teach your child to be more self-aware in relation to others. Help them consider others feelings and strengths as different from their own, so they will value honesty!

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