Sorry Parents, But You Probably Can't Tell When Your Kids Are Lying

Parents might not be as good at detecting lies as they think they are, research finds.

Many of us take pride on our ability to read other people. (Laura's literally slapping her knee and laughing at another one of Matt's unfunny jokes? She's totally into him.) This is especially true when it comes to children, who often seem to give away their feelings via body language and strange tics that crop up when they lie: Susie is biting her lip and can't maintain eye contact? Yep, she definitely snuck a cookie before dinner. Jack is pacing and trying to blame the broken window on the cat? He's 100 percent guilty. Right?

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Well, maybe.

A September 2016 review of studies published in Law and Human Behavior suggests adults might not be as good at detecting children's lies as they think they are. In fact, after analyzing 45 studies involving nearly 8,000 adults and 2,000 children, researchers found that adults only correctly identified when a child was lying 47 percent of the time. That's right, less than half. As the study's researchers were quick to point out, that's not much better than simply guessing whether or not your kid is telling the truth.

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Past research has found that parents in particular might struggle with determining whether or not their children are lying. In fact, they might be just as bad as childless adults: A small March 2016 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that parents only correctly identified when their children were lying about 50 percent of the time. The study authors think this might be the result of parents wanting to believe their kids are telling the truth.

But if you're certain that you're at least a little better at detecting lies than other parents, you could still be right: The authors of the more recent review found that adults who work with children on a regular basis (think social worker or teacher) might be ever-so-slightly better at identifying when kids are lying.

The researchers behind the review also say they hope their work will lead to more research that will help us better understand "children's lie-telling abilities." So keep on sneaking cookies and blaming things on the cat while you can, kiddos — you never know when scientists will find a way to nip your fibs in the bud.

[h/t Science of Us]

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