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Are Liars Less Intelligent

Posted by on Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 16:05
This news item was posted in Children category and has 1 Comment so far.

Below average I.Q. was more common among liars than honest children. About one third of those kids with the lowest I.Q.s lied and cheated. None of those kids with the highest I.Q.s lied or cheated.

Even in between these two extremes, the figures consistently show that the higher the I.Q., the lower the percent of kids who lied. As with almost all of the studies of children’s intelligence in the last fifty years, smarter kids lie less.

Hartshorne and May considered the possibility that socioeconomic background might play a more influential role in explaining why smart kids lie less. They knew that children from more privileged upper middle class homes do better on I.Q. tests.

They also had evidence that the cultural level in the home (the amount of art, music, and literature children were exposed to) is related to lying. To find out whether I.Q. was an important variable separate from family wealth or I.Q., they studied children in private schools who all came from similarly privileged homes.

Even when the benefits, of wealth could be ruled out, mainly because everyone had it, they found I.Q. was still related to cheating. Why should smarter kids cheat less? Maybe they don’t need to cheat. They know they have the intellectual prowess to get good grades without cheating or lying.

If that explanation is correct,  then smart kids might cheat as much as dumb ones when tested in a situation in which they didn’t think their exceptional intellectual abilities would help them. Not surprisingly, they found that cheating at party games, in athletic performances, or on tests of mechanical skills and stealing was not related to I.Q.

Instead of saying kids who are smart cheat and lie less, we should specify that children who are specially talented whatever that talent may be are less likely to cheat when that talent is likely to ensure success. I am assuming that athletically gifted kids would be less likely to cheat when tested at that ability, but to my knowledge no one has done such a study.

Psychologist Roger Burton, who has been studying dishonesty for the last twenty five years, put it this way: The relationship of honesty to I.Q., therefore, was essentially limited to academic type tests in which previous experience of failure in similar school, situations led some low I.Q. and low achieving subjects to cheat.

Cheating for these children had become a means of accomplishing what seemed unattainable by honest routes. Dr. Burton might be overstating the case. Success wasn’t totally unattainable for all the kids who cheated and lied. The children with average I.Q.s were smart enough to do well on school tests if they worked hard at it, yet they cheated more than the kids who had higher I.Q.s.

In other words, maybe they cheated to avoid having to put in that extra work. Perhaps if the bright kids, who presumably didn’t have to work hard, were faced with stiffer tests requiring more study, more of them would also have cheated. From the research that exists, we can’t be certain if some children cheat and lie to avoid failure or to avoid the necessity of having to work harder’ than some of their classmates.

There is still a second explanation of how intelligence might be related to not lying or cheating, an explanation not considered by Drs. Hartshorne and May. Smart kids might just be better liars, more clever cheaters.  Smart kids may tell better lies that are less easily detected. This couldn’t have happened in the Hartshorne and May research because they arranged the study so they would know for certain who lied.

But there is no experimenter in real life. Not every liar gets caught. Parents or schoolteachers don’t always know who has cheated. Unlike the mythical Pinocchio, there are no telltale long noses that tell us when our children are lying to us. Following this line of reasoning, we may infer that highly intelligent children may lie even more than others if they learn they can get away with it, and more so if they are under more pressure from their parents to achieve.

We should not think of intelligence, then, as a protection or guard against lying. If your child is above average in intelligence, that is no assurance he or she won’t cheat or lie. In fact, an intelligent child may be a more skiffed liar, and therefore avoid detection. It will depend on opportunity, pressure, and other factors.

Though some of the data suggests otherwise, it isn’t that the smart kids understand that lying and cheating are wrong. They just don’t lie and cheat when they think they will get caught, and/or when they can succeed without lying or cheating. If your child is closer to average intelligence, there may be more temptation for him or her to cheat in school, especially if you are pushing hard on grades and the competition is stiff. That doesn’t mean. he or she has to cheat or lie, only that there may be more reason to consider it.

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1 Response to “Are Liars Less Intelligent”

  1. 29 October, 2010, 16:42

    Are Liars Less Intelligent | Cure Pages…

    Below average I.Q. was more common among liars than honest children. About one third of those kids with the lowest I.Q.s lied and cheated. None of those kids…

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