Experimental Economics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 663–685 | Cite as

Social preferences and lying aversion in children

Original Paper


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.


Lying aversion Deception Social preferences Children Experiment 

JEL classification

C91 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.

Supplementary material

10683_2015_9459_MOESM1_ESM.docx (497 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 497 kb)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  2. 2.Université de LyonLyonFrance
  3. 3.CNRSEcullyFrance
  4. 4.IZABonnGermany

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