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The Theory of Mind and the Influence to Prosocial Lying Among Children

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“Second, research on socially sanctioned lies has focused almost exclusively on the role of the conventionality component. For example, the role of ToM understanding has hardly been factored into the study of children’s telling of white and blue lies. Research needs to assess children’s ToM and social-moral understanding concurrently to reveal how the intentionality and conventionality components interact to influence the development of prosocial lying.”

According to Lee, there are 2 basic driving forces behind why and how children lie: the intentionality component and the conventionality component. The intentionality component is applicable in situations where children lie to hide their transgressions, such as breaking lamp and then lying and saying that a “ghost” broke the object instead of themselves. They are intentionally lying as a means covering up their actions, a behavior observed in children as young as 3 years olds. The conventionality component encompasses all prosocial lies, ie. white and blue lies, told by children as a means of creating positive social interactions. Social conventions state that it is sometimes better to tell a kind lie than the harsh truth, and children as young as 5 years old have been found to tell these conventional lies. These lies are often found in situations where politeness is a large factor, and it was discovered that older children are more likely to tell a white lie to be kind than their younger counterparts. In all of these studies the two components were analyzed individually, with separate experiments being conducted for both the intentionality component and the conventionality component. The quote I selected argues that we need to move beyond seeing these two factors as two separate entities, and instead conduct research into seeing how they factor into each other.

Theory of Mind (ToM) is “the notion that individuals have intentions, desires, and beliefs, and will act accordingly” (Lee 91). This idea has been attributed solely to intentionality, and its interactions with the conventionality component have been left completely unexplored. As Lee said, ToM has hardly been factored into a child’s telling of white and blue lies even though children are surely lying intentionally. All white and blue lies are not told accidentally, so it doesn’t make sense that more research hasn’t been conducted concerning a child’s ToM when telling prosocial lies. White and blue lies are told to for the purpose of creating or maintaining positive change, such as lying and telling someone they look good when they really don’t as a means of being polite. Up until now prosocial lying has been exclusively categorized under the conventionality component, but I agree with Lee when he states that we need to look into how the combination of the intentionality and conventionality components influences a child’s development of prosocial lying.

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The Theory of Mind and the Influence to Prosocial Lying Among Children. (2018, October 22). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from
“The Theory of Mind and the Influence to Prosocial Lying Among Children.” GradesFixer, 22 Oct. 2018,
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