Do moral stories promote honesty in children?

8 Jul

When my kids were little I used to read to them a lot. As a parent you quickly discover there are two kinds of children’s literature, ones that the child prefers and the one’s that adults like. Great children’s literature appeals to both parents and child.

There is a category of books and stories that are supposed to impart values to the child. This study is the first I know of that investigates if these stories have an effect on behavior. The results are fascinating:

“The classic moral stories have been used extensively to teach children about the consequences of lying and the virtue of honesty. Despite their widespread use, there is no evidence whether these stories actually promote honesty in children. This study compared the effectiveness of four classic moral stories in promoting honesty in 3- to 7-year-olds. Surprisingly, the stories of “Pinocchio” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” failed to reduce lying in children. In contrast, the apocryphal story of “George Washington and the Cherry Tree” significantly increased truth telling. Further results suggest that the reason for the difference in honesty-promoting effectiveness between the “George Washington” story and the other stories was that the former emphasizes the positive consequences of honesty, whereas the latter focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty. When the “George Washington” story was altered to focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty, it too failed to promote honesty in children.”


One Response to “Do moral stories promote honesty in children?”

  1. judygurfein July 8, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    This is an interesting study! Thanks for sharing.

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