Children shouldn't lie to their elders, right? Fair enough, but a new study says the best child liars possess superior verbal working memory skills, the BBC reports. Researchers at the University of Sheffield gathered more than 100 children, ages six and seven, and told them not to peek at answers about a fictitious cartoon character on the back of a card (meanwhile, a hidden camera was on them the whole time), according to a press release. Then researchers questioned the children, spotted the liars, and evaluated their ability to lie in the face of two entrapment questions. The "best" liars fibbed each time, while poor liars did it only once or not at all. Writing in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, researchers say they were most impressed by a child's ability to keep up a strong cover story for any falsehood.
In memory tests that followed, the talented liars showed a more powerful working memory with words, but not with pictures. This is likely because covering up for lies involves juggling a lot of verbal information and "keeping the researcher's perspective in mind," a project leader tells the Telegraph. Parents may not want kids to lie, but "when their children are lying well, it means their children are becoming better at thinking and have good memory skills," says developmental psychologist Elena Hoicka. "We already know that adults lie in approximately a fifth of their social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes, so it's interesting to know why some children are able to tell more porkies than others." One possible surprise from the study: Only 25% of the children cheated by peeking at the answer. (Another recent study found an interesting consequence of lying on Facebook.)