Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Adults Easily Fooled When Kids Lie

Study Shows Adults Readily Believe Children’s False Denials
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 20, 2008 -- Children can be quite imaginative. But how often does a child fool an adult into believing that something didn't happen?

New research shows that children are able to fool adults quite readily when it comes to believing that a real event did not actually happen.

But adults were a bit better at sniffing out the truth when a child lied about a false event, filling in the blanks to pretend that it took place.

Study co-author Gail Goodman, PhD, says in a news release that "the large number of children coming into contact with the legal system, mostly as a result of abuse cases, has motivated intense scientific effort to understand children's true and false reports."

Goodman is a psychology professor with the University of California, Davis.

She and her team had more than 100 adults view videotapes of 3- to 5-year-old boys and girls being interviewed about certain made-up or real events.

The children were asked things like: "Who was there when you got in trouble because you were playing on the rocks?"

Some of those events actually did take place; others were made up.

For the events that did happen, children either confirmed that it took place or denied that it occurred.

When it came to the made-up events, children either fibbed, saying that it did in fact happen, or they truthfully said that it did not take place.

The adult participants were then asked to watch the videotapes and to act as if they were a juror on a real case.

The researchers found that adults were "relatively" able to nail the made-up events.

But when it came to the denials, adults tended to believe when children lied that an event did not happen when it actually did occur.

Adults were "especially likely" to believe that a child was telling the truth when they made a denial.

"The findings suggest that adults are better at detecting false reports than they are at detecting false denials," Goodman says.

She says that "while accurately detecting false reports protects innocent people from false allegations, the failure to detect false denials could mean that adults fail to protect children who falsely deny actual victimization."

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd