Social preferences and lying aversion in children
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While previous research has shown that social preferences develop in childhood, we study whether this development is accompanied by reduced use of deception when lies would harm others, and increased use of deception to benefit others. In a sample of children aged between 7 and 14, we find strong aversion to lying at all ages. Lying is driven mainly by selfish motives and envy. Children with stronger social preferences are less prone to deception, even when lying would benefit others at no monetary cost. Older children lie less than younger children and use self-justification to lie.
KeywordsLying aversion Deception Social preferences Children Experiment
JEL classificationC91 D03 D63
This research has been supported by a grant from the French National Research Agency (ANR, HEIDI grant 11-EMCO-011 01) and was performed within the framework of the LABEX CORTEX (ANR-11-LABX-0042) of Université de Lyon, within the program “Investissements d’Avenir” (ANR-11-IDEX-007) operated by the French National Research Agency (ANR). We are grateful to D. Cooper and to three reviewers for very inspiring comments. We thank participants at the ESA world meeting in New-York, the EASP conference in Amsterdam, the Toulouse-Lyon BEE workshop in Lyon, the Florence Workshop on Behavioral and Experimental Economics, the workshop on Understanding employees’ dishonesty behavior in the workplace in Dijon, and seminar participants at the University of Paris I for useful comments.
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