Development of Concepts of Truth and Lying: A Developmental Task

  • J. J. F. ter Laak


Behaviors and cognitions can be judged using veracity and truthfulness. In this chapter different kinds and perspectives on truth are briefly mentioned. Some of these play a role in psychology as a base for the conception of scientific truth and as a topic for research, for example, how do children acquire a concept of truth. In developmental psychology, there are lifespan models for the description and explanation of the growth of knowledge of the outside world. Strange as it may seem, the development of concepts of truth and especially of lying, and of speaking the truth, as well as lying behavior itself are investigated outwit or separate from these models. Beside these developmental studies, there remains the question as to whether and at what age children are able to report interpersonal behaviors and events in accordance with the truth. This, for example, is of interest to forensic psychologists when interviewing children who are victims and/or witnesses of crimes. These psychologists have made lists of criteria which help determine whether children’s statements are true or untrue. In this contribution, an empirical study will be reported which examines whether two truth criteria, considered important by forensical psychologists, i.e. the amount of details mentioned and spontaneous corrections, are indeed valid truth criteria for 7 and 11 year olds. The concept of developmental task is applied, in order to elaborate on the ability of children to report events and interpersonal behaviors truthfully and accurately. Finally, the concept ‘developmental task’ is considered in the light of some central questions prevalent in developmental psychology.


Interpersonal Behavior Developmental Task Overt Behavior Truth Criterion Truth Concept 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. J. F. ter Laak
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Developmental PsychologyUtrecht UniversityThe Netherlands

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