Young Teams Project number PN-II-RU-TE-2012-3-0323

Financing source: Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS - UEFISCDI
                           Contract number: 45/07.05.2013

The connected lie: Longitudinal links between early deception skills, sociocognitive development and problematic behaviors in young children.


   Investigating deception across the lifespan seems paradoxical: while in early childhood lying is considered a typical, normative behavior that is to be expected, whereas in later childhood and adolescence deceptive behavior is viewed as atypical and problematic. Moreover, deception skills have been traditionally linked to the development of theory of mind and executive functions; in order to efficiently deceive, children need to be able to represent the false belief induced in the other by their actions. Also, there are various sources of individual differences that might be involved in the evolution of deception in children, most notably externalizing and internalizing problems, since these have been linked with deception in some preliminary developmental studies.

  Considering these implications, the main objective of the present research project is to longitudinally assess young children's ability to conceal incriminating information in relation to their socio-cognitive development and to their internalizing/externalizing behaviors.


  • obtaining a better understanding of the interplay between deceptive skills, theory of mind and executive functions using a longitudinal accelerated design.
  • tracking important progresses in executive functions and theory of mind and linking them to developments in children’s deceptive skills.
  • analyzing how the type of deception task (e.g. an innovative Concealed Information Test, a modified resistance to temptation task) that the child needs to accomplish relates to his/her socio-cognitive development.
  • assessing internalizing and externalizing behaviors in children as well as their socio-emotional competences, and linking them with children’s attitudes towards deception and their actual deceptive behavior.


   Our results so far have shown a connection between executive functioning and deceptive skills (specifically with working memory, inhibition and shifting) and revealed that internalizing/externalizing behaviors play a role in children’s ability to conceal information. We have also learned that most young children would not show deceptive behavior when confronted with a temptation resistance paradigm (see Visu-Petra, Jurje, & Fizeșan, 2014).

   Considering these preliminary results and their ongoing further expansion, the current research project brings significant methodological, empirical, and conceptual advancements related to the emergence and early development of strategic deception skills in young children. From an applied standpoint, this knowledge can be translated in programs which address early signs of reliance on deceptive behavior in concomitance with increases in problematic behavior. It is also a valuable source of information for interviewing strategies in applied settings in which the child’s testimony is evaluated.