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Science Says Kids With the Skills to Succeed Are Also Better Liars

Good news if your kid's pants are on a fire—a new study says they probably have the life skills they'll need to be successful.

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My 11-year-old son is a horrible liar. The minute he starts spinning a tale, a smile spreads across his face no matter how hard he tries to stop it. My 14-year-old daughter on the other hand? She can stare me straight in the eye and lie without even blinking. It's a little unnerving to say the least, particularly now that she's in high school. But there is a silver lining. Because according to a new study out of China, kids who are better liars also possess more of the skills needed to succeed in life.

For the study, researchers had 84 three-year-olds play a simple game involving hiding candy 10 times a day for 10 days straight, in order to test how quickly they would learn to lie. The gist of the game was this: If the experimenter found the candy, they got to keep it. If they didn't, the kids got to keep it.

On the first day, the kids lied during 12 percent of the trials. On the second day, that number went up to 50 percent. By the fourth day, it was 64 percent. And by day 10, the kids were deceiving the experimenter 84 percent of the time.

Whoa! And not only that—the researchers were able to distinguish three different types of liars: the fast discovery group, an intermediate discovery group, and a slow discovery group. The fast group had started deceiving the experimenter 100 percent of the time to get the candy by day two. Meanwhile, it took the intermediate discovery group until day eight to start lying 100 percent of the time, and the slow group never got there, topping out at day 10 at 41 percent.

"Once children reach a necessary level, they can discover deception virtually overnight, as was the case of the fast discovery group," the authors wrote. "Or in just a few days, as was the case with the intermediate discovery group."

And those kids in the fast group who were so easily able to lie in order to get what they wanted? They also had higher levels of executive function and higher scores on a test of theory of mind.

"By exposing young children to a competitive situation, many quickly and spontaneously discovered deception as a viable strategy for personal gain," the authors explained.

Of course, another study recently found that kids who lie are more likely to abuse alcohol when they grow up, so you may want to take these results with a grain of salt. You should probably hold the margarita, however.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.