New York Magazine:
Only a social scientist would look at a classic, beloved children’s story about the importance of honesty and ask, “I wonder if this is an empirically effective way to reduce lying in children?” But it’s a good question, first because instilling honesty in kids is important for obvious reasons, and second because we actually don’t know — we tell these stories out of tradition, not a rigorous sense of whether they’re doing the work we expect of them. A research team led by Kang Lee of the University of Toronto set out to answer this question — with an interesting study.
In their upcoming paper in Psychological Science, they explain how they used a classic experimental setup in child psychology — leave a kid alone with a toy that he or she is told not to look at while a hidden camera looks on — to test how effective these stories are. After the researcher said they forgot something in their car and asked the kid not to look at the toy, they came back and read them a control story with no anti-lying content, or either “Pinocchio,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” or “George Washington and the Cherry Tree.”
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