Are children programmed to be honest and truthful from birth, only to be corrupted by the big bad world? Or, conversely, are they born liars?

Kang Lee starts by presenting three widely held myths about children who lie.

Who is he?:

“Lee … is masterful at tempting children to make morally dubious decisions. It’s an art he practices at his cheerful third ­floor lab. He conducts experiments on how people lie, in order to study the cognitive, social and cultural factors that help us learn how and when to be deceptive.” — The Globe and Mail, October 16, 2014

Why should I watch:

“With an international team based at the University of Toronto, Kang Lee investigates the neurological and social basis of emerging social behaviors in young children. His two­-pronged research focuses first on how and when children develop the capacity to lie, to detect liesand to feel guilty about it afterwards.

The second focus of Lee’s research is facial recognition, which has led to revelations of when children develop the ability to distinguish races ­­and has helped explain why some people occasionally see Jesus’ face on a piece of toast”. – from Official Ted site

Discussion questions:

  1. Do a bit of research using his three myths (first part of the talk). Do the majority of the people you interview agree with the myths? What are the demographic variables associated with correct or incorrect responses?
  2. He maintains that lying is a typical part of normal development. Can you present an alternative hypothesis?
  3. Why does Kang Lee think we should celebrate when children start to lie?
  4. What is his lie-detection technology that could reveal our hidden emotions?

Making connections:

Take a look at this video on how to spot a liar:

Can You Really Tell If a Kid is Lying? with Kang Lee


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