Theory of mind and preschoolers’ understanding of misdeed and politeness lies.

We told ninety-nine 4- and 5-year-olds stories in which speakers told lies and truths in two contexts: those told to deny a transgression (misdeeds) and those told to spare another’s feelings (politeness). Participants identified each statement as a lie or as the truth, morally judged it as good or bad, and decided whether or not to assign punishment to the speaker. All children received measures of first- and second-order false-belief understanding. Although 4-year-olds were above chance in their identification accuracy, they did not differentiate between lies and truths in their moral judgments or punishments. Five-year-olds outperformed 4-year-olds in their identification accuracy, morally judged lies more negatively than truths, and assigned speakers of lies more punishment than those who told truths. Five-year-olds also treated lies about misdeeds more negatively than politeness lies in their moral judgments and punishments. Children’s identification of both lies and truths related to their first-order false-belief understanding, while their moral judgments and punishment of lies related to their second-order false-belief understanding. These findings suggest that different considerations are made when children reason about the conceptual and moral differences between lies and truths. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)