Have you been honest about everything having to do with, say, your love life, or what happens at work?
Do you praise drawings children in your family bring home from school that you actually think are terrible?
We don’t just lie to protect our kids from hard truths, either.
We actually coach them to lie sometimes to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
These are what scientists call “prosocial lies”—falsehoods told for someone else’s benefit, as opposed to “antisocial lies” that are told strictly for your own personal gain.
Most research suggests that children develop the ability to lie at about age three. By age five, almost all children can and will lie to avoid punishment or chores—and a minority will sporadically tell prosocial lies. From ages seven to eleven, they begin to reliably lie to protect other people or to make them feel better—and they’ll start to consider prosocial lies to justified.
The research to date suggests that they are motivated by strong feelings of empathy and compassion.