Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 8, pp 3364–3375 | Cite as

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder’s Lying is Correlated with Their Working Memory But Not Theory of Mind

  • Weina MaEmail author
  • Liyang Sai
  • Cleo Tay
  • Youhong Du
  • Jie Jiang
  • Xiao Pan DingEmail author
Original Paper


The present study examined the role of executive function in lying for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The temptation resistance paradigm was used to elicit children’s self-protective lies and the Hide-and-seek task was used to elicit children’s self-benefiting lies. Results showed that children with ASD told fewer lies in the two deception tasks compared to children with intellectual disability (ID) and typically developing (TD) children. Furthermore, children with ASD’s lying were positively correlated with their working memory, but not with their theory of mind. These findings demonstrate that the mechanisms underlying deception for children with ASD are distinct from that of TD children.


Autism spectrum disorders Deception Executive function Working memory Theory of mind 



The study was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation of China (31600875), Hangzhou Social Science Foundation of China (2018RC2X17) and the National University of Singapore start-up grant. We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive input and suggestions.

Author Contributions

WM and LS conceived of the study. WM, LS and JJ contributed to the study design. Data collection was performed by WM, YD and JJ. CT, YD and JJ performed the data analysis. XPD and CT interpreted the data. CT and LS drafted the manuscript, and XPD provided critical revision. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interests to declare.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Hangzhou Normal University research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The parents or legal guardians of the child participants gave informed consent for the children’s participation in our study. The children also gave their oral assent prior to participation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Institutes of Psychological SciencesHangzhou Normal UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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