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Friday, January 16, 2015

The effects of punishment and appeals for honesty on children’s truth-telling behavior

By Victoria Talwar, Cindy Arruda, & Sarah Yachison
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume 130, February 2015, Pages 209–217


This study examined the effectiveness of two types of verbal appeals (external and internal motivators) and expected punishment in 372 children’s (4- to 8-year-olds) truth-telling behavior about a transgression. External appeals to tell the truth emphasized social approval by stating that the experimenter would be happy if the children told the truth. Internal appeals to tell the truth emphasized internal standards of behavior by stating that the children would be happy with themselves if they told the truth. Results indicate that with age children are more likely to lie and maintain their lie during follow-up questioning. Overall, children in the External Appeal conditions told the truth significantly more compared with children in the No Appeal conditions. Children who heard internal appeals with no expected punishment were significantly less likely to lie compared with children who heard internal appeals when there was expected punishment. The results have important implications regarding the impact of socialization on children’s honesty and promoting children’s veracity in applied situations where children’s honesty is critical.


• The effectiveness of verbal appeals and punishment on children’s honesty was examined.
• External appeals emphasized the importance of truth-telling for social approval.
• Internal appeals emphasized internal standards of behavior.
•Overall children in the external appeal conditions were least likely to lie.
•The efficacy of internal appeals was attenuated by expected punishment.