bookmark_borderWhy be Skeptical? Reason #1 (Lying Cheating College Students – Part 2)

If most people lie and if most people lie frequently, then that is a good reason to be skeptical.
In previous posts I have provided evidence that very young children lie and that most children  lie, that most teenagers lie and cheat and lie and cheat frequently, and that most college students lie and lie frequently.  Now it is time to look into whether and how much college students cheat.
There are two main kinds of cheating by college students that I will be providing evidence about: (1) academic cheating, and (2) cheating (and lying) in romantic relationships.  First, lets look at some evidence on academic cheating by college students:
Understanding Academic Misconduct
Julia M. Christensen Hughes – University of Guelph
Donald L. McCabe – Rutgers University
Canadian Journal of Higher Education
Volume 36, No. 1, 2006, pages 49 – 63.
[Emphasis added]
[There is]…a growing body of primarily U.S.-based research that suggests academic misconduct has become commonplace amongst the majority of college and university students…(p.50)
 Results of U.S.-based studies have consistently shown that many students engage in academic misconduct in the completion of their academic work and that academic institutions and faculty have done little about it (see for example, Bowers, 1964; Hetherington & Feldman, 1964; Singhal, 1982; McCabe, & Trevino, 1993, 1996; Payne & Nantz, 1994; McCabe, Trevino, & Butterfield, 1999, 2001). (p.51)
 Rates of Engagement in Academic Misconduct (p.51-52)
 Purportedly, academic misconduct has always been with U.S.. It has been described in the higher education literature as “ubiquitous” (Pincus & Schmelkin, 2003); as an “epidemic” (Haines, Diekhoff, LaBeff, & Clark, 1986, p.342), a “perennial problem” (Davis, Grover, Becker, & McGregor, 1992, p.16), and “one of the major problems in education today” (Singhal, 1982, p.775). Such observations are primarily based on studies of undergraduate students at U.S. colleges and universities (both private and public), using a variety of data collection techniques (e.g., self report surveys, in-depth interviews, experiments), and differing sample sizes (e.g., from less than one hundred students in a single department to thousands of students on multiple campuses).
 Although they vary in methodology, these studies have consistently found that the majority of undergraduate students have engaged in some type of misconduct in the completion of their academic work. For example, in Bower’s (1964) seminal multi-campus study involving over 5000 students from 99 U.S. campuses, three out of four students reported engaging in at least one of 13 questionable academic behaviours, with 39% of students reporting having engaged in “serious test cheating” (e.g., copying during an exam with or withoutthe other student’s knowledge, using crib notes, helping someone else to cheaton a test or exam) and 65% reporting having engaged in “serious cheating on written work” (e.g., plagiarism, fabricating or falsifying a bibliography, turningin work done by someone else, copying a few sentences of material without footnoting).
 In a similar 1990-1991 study involving over 6,000 students across 31 small to medium sized U.S. campuses, McCabe and Trevino (1993) found that as many as two out of three students reported engaging in at least one of 14 questionable behaviours and that almost 20% of students reported engaging in 5 or more such behaviours. In this case, 64% of students were found to have engaged in serious test cheating and 66% in serious written cheating.
 Smaller, single campus studies have also reported high rates of academic misconduct. For example, Hetherington and Feldman (1964) used an experimental design in which 78 psychology students at one U.S. state university were presented with multiple opportunities to cheat on actual course exams. More than half (59%) of the students exhibited some form of cheating, the vast majority (87%) of whom were observed to cheat multiple times. Payne and Nantz (1994) used in-depth interviews to study the cheating behaviours of 22 business students in a medium-sized, U.S., state university. Nineteen (or 86%) of the students admitted to having cheated in their college work. Finally, Singhal (1982) surveyed 364 engineering students at a U.S. state university; 56% of students reported having cheated. 
Some of the data from the above mentioned studies is shown in the following table (click on image below to get a clearer view of the table):
Summary Statistics Table
The table above is from page 223 of the following article:
Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research
Donald McCabe – Rutgers University
Linda Travino -Pennsylvania State University
Kenneth Butterfield – Washington State University
ETHICS & BEHAVIOR 11(3) , 219-232.
A review of a large number of studies on cheating by college students produced similar percentages:
 “Bernard E. Whitley, Jr.(1998:238) reviewed 107 studies related to cheating among college students and found an average of 70.4 percent of students had cheated, 43.1 percent had cheated on examinations, 40.9 percent had cheated on homework assignments, and 47 percent had plagiarized.”  (p.491)
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Georgia Southern University
Coll Stud J 37 no4 D 2003
NOTE: The original paper referenced above was:

Whitley, B. E. (1998).  Factors Associated with Cheating Among College Students: A Review.
Research in Higher Education, 39, 235-274.

Much of the evidence about cheating by college students is obtained by anonymous questionnaires answered by college students.  But we already know that college students have a significant inclination to lie, so they might also be lying even on anonymous questionnaires about cheating.  There is evidence that college students do in fact under-report their own cheating on these anonymous questionnaires.
One study published back in 1987 noted that use of a a method called Randomized Response Technique yielded significantly higher cheating report rates when compared with standard anonymous questionnaires:
Improved estimation of academic cheating behavior using the randomized response technique
N. J. Scheers, C. Mitchell Dayton
Research in Higher Education
1987, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 61-69
Abstract [emphasis added]
Academic cheating behavior by university students was surveyed using the randomized response technique (RRT) and by conventional anonymous questionnaire methods. RRT is a survey method that permits sensitive information to be collected but that precludes associating the respondent with a particular response to a survey item. The estimated proportions of students who have engaged in cheating behaviors were, in general, larger using RRT.  Moreover, this result is consistent with earlier findings for other sensitive behaviors. That underreporting is a serious problem with anonymous questionnaires is supported by the fact that the anonymous questionnaire estimates ranged from 39% to 83% below the RRT estimates. Furthermore, using a covariate modification of RRT, there was a distinct inverse relation between students’ estimated grade-point average and the tendency to engage in cheating behavior. While these results have direct implications for estimating cheating behavior in higher education, more broadly, they raise serious concerns about the use of anonymous questionnaires when survey topics are sensitive.
Another reason that conventional anonymous questionnaires might result in minimizing the amount of cheating by college students is the problem of volunteer sample biases:
Under Reporting of Cheating in Research Using Volunteer College Students
Miller, Arden; Shoptaugh, Carol; Parkerson, Annette
College Student Journal
v42 n2 p326-339 Jun 2008
[emphasis added]
Reported rates of cheating may significantly underestimate the threat to academic integrity in universities due to volunteer sample biases. To vary the incentive states of the participants, we sampled using: 1) a 126 item questionnaire solicited through campus email, 2) a 33 item questionnaire solicited the same way, and 3) a questionnaire that offered course credit. Course-credit participants were more likely to report a cheating behavior (80.7%) than the long questionnaire (68.5%) or the short questionnaire (56.3%), both of which offered no tangible reward. We also asked subjects to respond regarding the cheating behavior of a person that they know best in two different research designs. In both designs, participants reported less cheating for themselves than they did for others. The hypothesis that we underestimate cheating through volunteer sampling was clearly supported. (Contains 4 tables.)
We have seen that data from the past several decades consistently shows that most college students cheat on either tests or written assignments or both.  70% is a conservative figure, but given that most of the data is self-reported cheating by college students, whom we know frequently lie, and given that there is empirical evidence that volunteer sample bias and use of conventional anonymous questionnaires results in significant underreporting of cheating, the actual percentage of college students who cheat may well be in the 80% to 90% range.

bookmark_borderWhy be Skeptical? Reason #1 (Lying Cheating College Students)

If most people lie and deceive, and if people often lie and deceive,  then we have good reason to be skeptical.  We have seen in previous posts that most children lie and lie frequently,  and that most teenagers lie and cheat and do so frequently; it is now time to take a look at the behavior of college students.
A study of lying in everyday life was conducted in which one group consisted of college students and a second group consisted of community members (ranging from 18 to 71 years old).  The participants each kept a  journal for one week in which they were to write down each social interaction and each lie they told.
The results of the study were summed up this way [emphasis added]:
Lying Is a Fact of Daily Life
The studies reported here provide some of the first data, and by far the most extensive data, on some of the most fundamental questions about lying in everyday life. As we expected, lying is a fact of daily life. Participants in the community study, on the average, told a lie every day; participants in the college student study told two. One out of every five times that the community members interacted with someone, they told a lie; for the college students, it was one out of every three times. Of all of the people the community members interacted with one on one over the course of a week, they lied to 30% of them; the college students lied to 38% of the people in their lives. (p.991)
“Lying in Everyday Life”
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
1996, Vol. 70, No. 5, 979-995
Bella M. DePaulo – University of Virginia
Deborah A. Kashy – Texas A&M University
Susan E. Kirkendol – Pfeiffer College
Jennifer A. Epstein – Cornell University Medical College
Melissa M. Wyer – University of Virginia
viewed 11/25/14
Only one of the college students claimed to go a whole week without ever lying.  That one student, of course, might well have been lying in claiming to have never lied that week.  If the students in this study are representative of college students in general, then ALMOST ALL  college students lie, and MOST college students lie on a DAILY basis.
Another study compared a group of high school students with a group of college students.  In this study, the students were asked (in questionnaires) if they had lied to their parents on various topics (friends, alcohol/drugs, parties, money, dating, and sex) at least once in the past year.  Here is a summary of the results [emphasis added]:
Lying to parents was indeed a frequent behavior among the adolescents and emerging adults. Figure 1 shows the percentages of students who had lied to their parents about 6 different issues at least once within the past year. As can be seen, the percentage of high school students who had lied about the different issues ranged from 32 to 67% whereas for college students the range was 28–50%. Eighty-two percent of all students indicated that they had lied to their parents about at least 1 of the 6 issues during the past year. (p.105)
Lying to Parents graph2
[The white bars represent high school students, and black bars represent college students] It is worth noting that although college students in this study were less likely than high school students to report lying to their parents, a notable proportion of college students had lied to their parents at least once in the past year (ranging from 28 to 50% for the different issues). (p.109)
“The Right to Do Wrong: Lying to Parents Among Adolescents and Emerging Adults”
Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 33, No. 2, April 2004, pp. 101–112
Lene Arnett Jensen,  Jeffrey Jensen Arnett,  S. Shirley Feldman,  and Elizabeth Cauffman
viewed 11-26-14
The above study lumps the high school students together with college students to report that 82% of the students lied to their parents on at least one of the six topics in the past year.   That means that MORE than 82% of high school students lied on at least one of the six topics, and that LESS than 82% of the college students lied on at least one of the six topics in the past year.
We know that 50% of the college students lied to their parents just on the topic of money alone.  So, it is virtually certain that some significant portion of the the remaining 50% of college students lied on one or more of the other topics.  Thus, although we cannot arrive at a specific number, it is very likely that somewhere between 60% and 70% of the college students lied to their parents about at least one of the six topics in the past year.
Another study of college students looked into how often such students lied on their Resumes:
This study explores how Linkedin shapes patterns of deception in resumes. The general self-presentation goal to appear favorably to others motivates deception when one’s true characteristics are inconsistent with their desired impression. Because Linkedin makes resume claims public, deception patterns should be altered relative to traditional resumes. Participants (n = 119) in a between-subjects experiment created resumes in one of three resume settings: a traditional (offline) resume, private Linkedin profiles, or publicly available Linkedin profiles. Findings suggest that the public nature of Linkedin resume claims affected the kinds of deception used to create positive impressions, but did not affect the overall frequency of deception. Compared with traditional resumes, Linkedin resumes were less deceptive about the kinds of information that count most to employers, namely an applicant’s prior work experience and responsibilities, but more deceptive about interests and hobbies. The results stand in contrast to assumptions that Internet-based communication is more deceptive than traditional formats, and suggests that a framework that considers deception as a resource for self-presentation can account for the findings.
On average, participants lied 2.87 (median = 3.00, SD = 1.79) times in their profile with a total of 341 lies. The frequency of deception was normally distributed.  One hundred and six participants (92.4 percent) reported at least one deception; the greatest number of lies was 8. There were no gender differences in deception frequency, t(117) = 0.53, p = 0.60.
“The Effect of Linkedin on Deception in Resumes”
Jamie Guillory, M.S., and Jeffrey T. Hancock, Ph.D.
Volume 15, Number 3, 2012
viewed 11-26-14
92% of the college students in this experiment lied on their resumes.  There was an average of three lies in each resume.  So, if these students are representative of college students in general, then ALMOST ALL college students lie on their resumes, and MANY (perhaps MOST) lie multiple times on their resumes.
In conclusion,  there is scientific evidence that indicates that MOST college students lie on a DAILY basis, that MOST college students lie to their parents on one or more important topics each year, and that ALMOST ALL college students lie on their resumes.
In the next installment, we will see evidence that college students cheat about as often as they lie.

bookmark_borderWhy be Skeptical? Reason #1 (Lying Cheating Teenagers)

One good reason why we should be skeptical is that people often lie, deceive, and cheat.
This is not just my personal opinion. This is a fact, a fact established by scientific observation and research. I have presented factual scientific data showing that very young children lie, and that elementary age children lie frequently. Now it is time to look into how much teenagers lie, deceive, and cheat.
I take it as an obvious truth that teenagers sometimes lie and deceive and teenagers sometimes cheat.   So, an important question is HOW MUCH do teenagers lie and deceive and cheat?
One psychologist who has studied this question is Nancy Darling.  Here are some important findings from one of her studies about teenagers [emphasis added]:
In the last few years, a handful of intrepid scholars have decided it’s time to try to understand why kids lie. For a study to assess the extent of teenage dissembling, Dr. Nancy Darling, then at Penn State University, recruited a special research team of a dozen undergraduate students, all under the age of 21. Using gift certificates for free CDs as bait, Darling’s Mod Squad persuaded high-school students to spend a few hours with them in the local pizzeria.
Each student was handed a deck of 36 cards, and each card in this deck listed a topic teens sometimes lie about to their parents. Over a slice and a Coke, the teen and two researchers worked through the deck, learning what things the kid was lying to his parents about, and why.
“They began the interviews saying that parents give you everything and yes, you should tell them everything,” Darling observes. By the end of the interview, the kids saw for the first time how much they were lying and how many of the family’s rules they had broken. Darling says 98 percent of the teens reported lying to their parents.
Out of the 36 topics, the average teen was lying to his parents about twelve of them. The teens lied about what they spent their allowances on, and whether they’d started dating, and what clothes they put on away from the house. They lied about what movie they went to, and whom they went with. They lied about alcohol and drug use, and they lied about whether they were hanging out with friends their parents disapproved of. They lied about how they spent their afternoons while their parents were at work. They lied about whether chaperones were in attendance at a party or whether they rode in cars driven by drunken teens.
Being an honors student didn’t change these numbers by much; nor did being an overscheduled kid. No kid, apparently, was too busy to break a few rules. And lest you wonder if these numbers apply only to teens in State College, Pennsylvania, the teens in Darling’s sample were compared to national averages on a bevy of statistics, from academics to extracurriculars. “We had a very normal, representative sample,” Darling says.
[Excerpted from:  “Learning to Lie” by Po Bronson, published Feb 10, 2008,  New York Magazine]
Nancy Darling made  a couple of comments worth noting about the above mentioned study:
“Most kids lie to their parents sometimes. For example, in a study we did of 121 high school students, 120 of them listed at least one area they lied to parents about. And that last teen told us they agreed with their parents about everything. (I’m not sure I believe them.) We’ve replicated these findings with thousands more kids in four countries on three continents.” (“Is Your Teen Trustworthy?Psychology Today,  Published on July 9, 2011)
The view that teenagers often lie and cheat is also supported by a survey of 43,000 high school students conducted by the Josephson Institute [emphasis added]:
Survey highlights: while 89 percent of students believe that being a good person is more important than being rich, almost one in three boys and one in four girls admitted stealing from a store within the past year. Moreover, 21 percent admitted they stole something from a parent or other relative, and 18 percent admitted stealing from a friend.
On lying, more than two in five said they sometimes lie to save money (48 percent of males and 35 percent of females). While 92 percent of students believe their parents want them to do the right thing, more than eight in ten confessed they lied to a parent about something significant.
Rampant cheating in school continues. A majority of students (59 percent) admitted cheating on a test during the last year, with 34 percent doing it more than two times.  One in three admitted they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.
“As bad as these numbers are, they appear to be understated,” said Michael Josephson, president of the Institute and a national leader in ethics training. “More than one in four students confessed they lied on at least one or two survey questions, which is typically an attempt to conceal misconduct.”
Josephson said the results of this survey, conducted in 2010, are slightly better than those of the 2008 survey.
Josephson Institute of Ethics’ Report Card for 2010
Note:  In a 2012  survey conducted by the Josephson Institute, the percent of lying, stealing, and cheating reported by high school students decreased somewhat.
A survey of 24,000 high school students produced results similar to the above Josephson Institute survey [emphasis added]:
Don McCabe, a professor at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey, has conducted much of the research on cheating in U.S. schools since 1990 and says cheating on tests in high school is on the rise.
In his survey of 24,000 students at 70 high schools, 64 percent of students admitted to cheating on a test, 58 percent admitted to plagiarism and 95 percent said they participated in some form of cheating, whether it was on a test, plagiarism or copying homework.
Problem is, he said, some students don’t think of it as cheating, or they try to justify their behavior.
“They feel a test is unfair and they feel it’s OK to cheat,” he said. “Maybe they had something to do that night and didn’t study. Another big issue is fairness — they feel that they are getting left behind.”
(“Students’ cheating takes a high-tech turn” by Jeremy P. Meyer, The Denver Post, POSTED:   05/27/2010 )
Another indication of teenage deception is the fact that while many teenagers drink alcohol, parents are generally unaware that their teenage child drinks alcohol [emphasis added]:
 Abstract: This study included 199 White mother-adolescent dyads and 144 White father-adolescent dyads. All adolescents reported regular alcohol use, yet less than one third of parents were aware of their adolescents’ drinking. […]
Despite public concern and media hype surrounding drug use by adolescents, studies have confirmed that American adolescents’ use of some illicit drugs, including cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin, is minimal. In a 1995 national survey, only from 1% to 4% of eighth, 10th, and 12th graders reported using any of these substances in the previous 30 days. The use of other substances during the month preceding the study was more prevalent, with from 9% to 21% of students reporting marijuana use and from 19% to 34% reporting cigarette use. Alcohol use was even higher, with 25% of eighth graders, 39% of 10th graders, and 51% of 12th graders reporting that they drank in the previous month (Johnston, O’Malley, & Bachman, 1996). Public attention has been misdirected at adolescents’ use of illicit drugs, even though licit drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, cause more deaths in the United States than all other drugs combined (Ellickson, 1992) and may, in the long run, pose a greater risk to the developing adolescent and more harm to society (Kandel, Single, & Kessler, 1976; Newcomb & Bentler, 1989).
Even though some adolescents experiment with alcohol without becoming regular users (Kandel et al., 1978), few studies have recognized this distinction and focused on adolescents who are regular drinkers. (For exceptions, see Barnes & Farrell, 1992; Barnes et al., 1994). To avoid confounding experimentation with regular use, this study focuses only on adolescents who were using alcohol on a regular basis.
The subsample derives from a study of eighth to 12th graders (n = 1,227) and their parents (n = 1,176) from three school districts In urban, suburban, and rural settings in a single Midwestern county between December, 1994, and May, 1995.
Parents’ beliefs about their adolescents’ alcohol use.
Parents responded to the question, “How likely is it that your child currently drinks alcohol?” in one of seven categories. (See Table 1.)
Parents’ beliefs about alcohol use by their adolescents’ close friends.                                                                                                   Parents responded to the question, “How likely is it that your child’s close friends currently drink alcohol?” in one of seven categories. (See Table 1.)
Parents’ awareness of their adolescents’ alcohol use.
Previous studies have concluded that adolescent self reports of alcohol use on anonymous or identifiable surveys are valid and reliable (Malvin & Moskowitz, 1983; Mensch & Kandel, 1988). Because this study included only adolescents who reported the regular use of alcohol, parents were classified as either unaware or aware of their adolescents’ use of alcohol based on their response to a question regarding beliefs about the adolescent’s alcohol use. Parents were coded unaware if they responded that the adolescent was somewhat, very, or definitely unlikely to be drinking alcohol. Parents were coded aware if they responded that the adolescent was somewhat, very, or definitely likely to be drinking alcohol or that they were not sure. The response, not sure, was classified in the aware category because parents typically underestimate adolescent alcohol use, and this uncertainty indicates some suspicion that the adolescent is using alcohol. (The percentages are reported in the results.)
Parental Awareness of Alcohol Use by Their Adolescents and Their Adolescents’ Close Friends
This first set of analyses confirmed our hypothesis that the majority of mothers and fathers would be unaware of their adolescents’ alcohol use. Although all adolescents included in this study reported using alcohol at least once a month, only 29% of mothers were aware of their adolescents’ alcohol use. Moreover, few aware mothers were definite when asked about the likelihood that their adolescents currently were using alcohol. Only 5% responded “definitely”: 4%, “very likely”; and 6%, “not sure.” The largest group of aware mothers, 1552, responded that their adolescents’ alcohol use was “somewhat likely.” Despite adolescents’ reports of regular use of alcohol, the majority of mothers, 71 %, were unaware. Most were quite certain that their adolescents were not currently using alcohol. Specifi cally, 26% of the unaware mothers responded “defi nitely not,” and 33% responded “very unlikely”; only 12% of the mothers responded that their adolescents’ use was “somewhat unlikely.”
We obtained similar results for fathers. Only 31 % were aware that their adolescents were currently using alcohol. Few aware fathers were certain about their adolescents’ use. Only 2% responded “defi nitely”; 4%,
“very likely”; and 6%, “not sure.” The largest group of aware fathers, 19%, responded that their adolescents’ alcohol use was “somewhat likely.” Despite adolescents’ reports of regular alcohol use, 69% of fathers were unaware. The majority were quite certain that their adolescents adolescents did not currently drink alcohol. Specifi cally, 24% of unaware fathers responded “defi nitely not,” and 29% responded “very unlikely”; only 16% of the fathers responded “somewhat unlikely.”
[“Other Kids Drink, But not my Kid“: Does Parental Awareness of Adolescent Alcohol Use Protect Adolescents from Risky Consequences?” (1998).
Karen Bogenschneider, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Ming-Yeh Wu, Soochow University
Marcela Raffaelli, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Jenner C. Tsay, University of Wisconsin
University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Faculty Publications, Department of Psychology. Paper 116, 5-18-1998]
For teenagers who report regular alcohol use,  about 70% of their parents are UNAWARE that their teenager is currently using alcohol.  This suggests that many of these teenagers are involved in lying and/or deceiving their parents, at least about their use of alcohol.
Most teenagers lie and deceive.  Most teenagers are dishonest with their parents on several topics.  Most teenagers cheat in school, either on tests or on assignments.  Most teenagers who regularly drink alcohol manage to hide this from their parents.  Those are the facts.

bookmark_borderWhy be Skeptical? Reason #1 (Little Liars)

If an adult person is not mentally ill and not mentally disabled, then he/she will answer YES to the following questions:
1. Do children sometimes lie?
2. Do teenagers sometimes lie?
3. Do college students and young adults sometimes lie?
4. Do adults sometimes lie?
It take it to be UNCONTROVERSIAL that children, teenagers, young adults, and adults sometimes tell lies.
There might be some who disagree about the claim that VERY YOUNG children tell lies (i.e. children who are only two or three years old), but my previous post in this series provides significant evidence to support this answer: YES, even VERY YOUNG children will sometimes lie.
So, if we all agree that children, teenagers, young adults, and adults sometimes lie, then why am I writing posts on this question?  Because the real question is not whether people of various age groups SOMETIMES lie; rather, the real questions are these:
How MANY people lie and deceive?
How OFTEN do people lie and deceive? 
How EASILY do people lie and deceive? 
What MOTIVATES people to lie and deceive?
How GOOD are people at lying and deceiving?  
My main point is that MOST children lie, MOST teenagers lie, MOST young adults lie, and that MOST older adults lie. Another point I want to make is that children OFTEN lie, teenagers OFTEN lie, young adults OFTEN lie, and older adults OFTEN lie.   Scientific research can confirm or disconfirm these claims, and scientific research can inform us of the DEGREE to which lying and deception are common human behaviors.  The MORE  people that lie, the more skeptical we ought to be.  The more OFTEN people lie, the more skeptical we ought to be.  The more EASILY people will tell lies, the more skeptical we ought to be, and so forth.
The scientific study that I focused in on in the my previous post examined the behavior of VERY YOUNG children.  The results of that study show that children as young as two years old will tell lies.  In fact,  between 25% and 33% of the younger children who ‘transgressed’ by disobeying the rule to not peek (at a toy placed behind them) before being asked to guess what sort of toy it was (based on sounds coming from the toy)  lied and said that they had not peeked.
The children who were about three years old in that study who ‘transgressed’ lied at a significantly higher rate.  Sixteen of the oldest children in this study were from 43 to 48 months old (3.6 to 4 years old).  Ten of those children peeked at the toy, and nine of the ten who peeked lied, that is, 90% of the children who peeked in this older group lied about it!
But what about older children, children from ages four to ten?  Perhaps as children grow up, they become more aware of the wrongness of lying and deception, and more aware of social conventions against lying and deception,  and more aware of the implications and consequences of lying and deception.  So, it is possible that lying and deception decline as children get older and become more mature.
We need to turn to scientific research to find out whether the strong tendency to lie at around three years of age declines, or increases, or stays the same, over the following years of childhood (i.e. from age four to age ten).
Kang Lee, who was one of the psychological researchers who authored the article that I discussed in the previous post, has done a lot of research on lying and cheating and truth-telling by children.  One article, in particular, discusses research in recent decades about children lying [emphasis added]:
Child Development Perspectives © 2013 The Society for Research in Child Development
Volume 7, Number 2, 2013, Pages 91–96
Little Liars: Development of Verbal Deception in Children
Kang Lee
University of Toronto
ABSTRACT— Lying is common among adults and a more complex issue in children. In this article, I review two decades of empirical evidence about lying in children from the perspective of speech act theory. Children begin to tell lies in the preschool years for anti- and prosocial purposes, and their tendency to lie changes as a function of age and the type of lies being told. In addition, children’s ability to tell convincing lies improves with age. In the article, I highlight the central roles that children’s understanding of mental states and social conventions play in the development of lying. I also identify areas for research to be done to develop a more comprehensive picture of the typical and atypical developmental courses of verbal deception in children.
In the introduction of this article, Lee notes that “No research on lying was conducted between the early 1900s and 1980 (Lewis, Stanger, & Sullivan, 1989).”  But this changed in recent decades [emphasis added]:
Since the late 1980s, research on lying in children has increased, mainly due to three advancements in developmental psychology. One was research on children’s theory of mind (ToM), or the notion that individuals have intentions, desires, and beliefs, and will act accordingly (Wellman, 1992). Lying in essence is ToM in action, because to lie and to lie successfully, individuals must understand their mental state and their listener’s mental state. The second advancement was the increased recognition that culture-specific social conventions play an important role in the development of moral reasoning and behavior (Turiel, 1983). Lying, like any other moral or immoral behavior, increasingly is thought to be influenced not only by universal moral principles but by social conventions (Lee, 2000). The third advancement was the rapid rise in research on eyewitness testimony by children (Goodman, 2006) as a result of an increase in the number of legal cases involving children (Lyon & Dorado, 2008).
In the article, Lee synthesizes data from several psychological experiments and provides a chart that indicates the percent of ‘transgressors’ or children who do something contrary to directions given by an adult and who then lie and indicate that they did not disobey the directions given by an adult:

percent of transgressors who lied

We can see that there is a significant increase in the percent of children who lie about their violation of the rule or instruction given by an adult.  At age two only about 30% of ‘transgressors’ lie.  At age three it jumps up to about 55%, and by age four about 75% of transgressors will lie.  Then there is a smaller increase between age four and five, so that at five about 80% of transgressors lie.  Then the trajectory levels out, and stays in the range between 80% and 85% for ages six through ten.
These empirical studies of lying indicate that MOST children who are three years of age or older will lie when they have broken a rule or disobeyed direction given by an adult.  Furthermore, this tendency to lie increases significantly between age two and age five, and then levels out at a high percentage (between 80% and 85% of transgressors will lie), from age five to age ten.
So, we do NOT see the tendency to lie DECREASING as children grow older.  Rather, it appears that the tendency INCREASES as they learn how to become better at the ‘skill’ of lying and deceiving others.  By age five children become fairly skilled at lying and will very frequently lie, at least when they have disobeyed a rule or directions from an adult (‘transgression’), and they will lie even when there is no threat of punishment or no significant reward at stake (which is the case in these experiments).

bookmark_borderWhy be Skeptical? Reason #1

In a previous post I put forward seven reasons why we should be skeptical (Reason For Skepticism #7 is in the comments section).  In this post I’m going to provide some facts and data in support of Reason For Skepticism #1:
(RFS1) People are often dishonest, deceptive, or have been deceived by others.
Here is a nice summary statement about psychological research on this topic:
Overall, the experimental evidence shows that when placed in the right (or wrong) situation, people are prone to lying, a behavior that starts at an early age, and people are very good at it.
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Dishonesty and deception begin at an early age for human beings.

Babies not as innocent as they pretend

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent     12:01AM BST      01 Jul 2007     [excerpt, emphasis added]
Following studies of more than 50 children and interviews with parents,
Dr Vasudevi Reddy, of the University of Portsmouth’s psychology department, says she has identified seven categories of deception used between six months and three-years-old.
 Infants quickly learnt that using tactics such as fake crying and pretend laughing could win them attention. By eight months, more difficult deceptions became apparent, such as concealing forbidden activities or trying to distract parents’ attention.
By the age of two, toddlers could use far more devious techniques, such as bluffing when threatened with a punishment.
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Given this early practice of deception, it should be no surprise that young children often engage in lying.

Experiments Show How Readily Adults and Children Will Lie When Given the Chance To Do So

[excerpt, emphasis added]

When placed in a situation where lying is in a child’s self-interest (to avoid punishment), children as young as age two-and-a-half will lie to get out of trouble (see, Lewis).

It is interesting to note that by the time children get to be five years old – they are much more likely to lie.  Every five-year-old in these studies lied when getting caught doing something wrong.

And although it will be covered in greater detail in another section of this website, this research also reveals that it is impossible for observers (including the children’s parents) to tell whether these 3- to 5-year-olds are lying (see, lying comes easy).

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But young children have vivid imaginations,  and they don’t have a well-developed sense of right and wrong, so deception and lying are just ‘childish’ behaviors that usually decrease and fade away as people grow up and mature, right?   Sorry, but the facts don’t support such wishful thinking.

Experiments Show How Readily Adults and Children Will Lie When Given the Chance To Do So

Experimental research – secretly putting people in a controlled setting – also show how readily people will lie.
For example, during a bogus experiment on ESP (a mind-reading task), people are presented with an opportunity to cheat in order to win a $50 prize.  When people are placed in such a situation, almost everyone cheats (90%) and then when confronted about their behavior, few tell the truth; only 9 to 20% of the individuals in these studies confess when questioned (see, Miller and Stiff, DeTurck and Miller).
What is really interesting about these findings is that the same results are obtained by different researchers working in different parts of the country.
[excerpt, emphasis added]
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Another indication that deception starts early and increases as children grow up and become teenagers can be seen in data on academic cheating, a common form of deception and dishonesty.

Academic Cheating Background

[excerpt, emphasis added]
Although little research exists about cheating among pre-school and elementary school students, the following information has been presented by Janis Jacobs, a specialist in social development and associate professor at Pennsylvania State University.
At the Pre-School level children understand that cheating is morally wrong, as opposed to a social transgression (i.e. eating with their fingers). Because moral development consists of their own needs vs. punishment, they are prone to cheat in order to win.
At 5-6 years of age many children cheat if the opportunity arises. In one study of this age group, 84% knew that cheating was not allowed. However, 56% cheated. This is primarily true because they have an inability to inhibit their actions at this age.
[excerpt, emphasis added]
…The results of the 29th Who’s Who Among American High School Students Poll (of 3,123 high-achieving 16- to 18-year olds – that is, students with A or B averages who plan to attend college after graduation) were released in November, 1998. Among the findings:

  • 80% of the country’s best students cheated to get to the top of their class.
  • More than half the students surveyed said that they don’t think cheating is a big deal.
  • 95% of cheaters say they were not caught.
  • 40% cheated on a quiz or a test
  • 67% copied someone else’s homework

According to the results of a 1998 survey of 20,829 middle and high school students nationwide conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, 70% of high school students and 54% of middle school students said they had cheated on an exam in the last 12 months. …
[excerpt, emphasis added]
Middle School:
Most research shows that cheating begins to set in during the middle school years (ages 11 – 13). According to The Josephson Institute of Ethics, “The evidence is fairly clear that cheating begins in the middle school fairly seriously and escalates in the higher grades, 10th, 11th and 12th grades, because that’s when the stakes are highest. It doesn’t seem as if it’s necessarily a dispositional thing, like they’ve never thought of cheating before. It’s that there isn’t much reason to cheat in the elementary school.”
According to Jacobs, research at this age shows that middle schoolers are motivated to cheat because of the emphasis placed on grades. In one study, 2/3 of middle school students report cheating on exams; 90% copy homework. Furthermore, even those who say that cheating is wrong, will cheat. The bottom line: If a child’s goal is to get a good grade, he is more likely to cheat.
High School:
Research has shown that the incidence of academic cheating among high school students has risen to all-time highs. The studies conducted by Who’s Who Among American High School Students, as well as those conducted by The Josephson Institute, are just a few of the many that demonstrate the problem. In addition, a 1997 Connecticut Department of Public Health survey of 12,000 students showed that 63% of 11th graders and 62% of ninth graders reported cheating on an exam in the previous 12 months.
According to Stephen Davis, a psychology professor at Emporia State University in Kansas: “about 20% of college students from across the nation admitted to cheating in high school during the 1940’s. That percentage has since soared, with no fewer than 75% and as many as 98% of 8,000 college students surveyed each year now reporting cheating in high school – and the majority admitting doing it on several occasions.
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To be continued…