Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Psychological Theories on Honesty - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 168
Honesty/psychological theories: Psychologists have tended to focus on the role of such dilemmas in everyday life, often in relation to “white lie” or “politeness” contexts. In a typical white lie context, an individual is given an undesirable gift and is asked if he or she likes it (Cole, 1986(1); Saarni, 1984(2)). The recipient must decide whether to tell the truth and risk hurting the feelings of the gift-giver, or lie to make the gift-giver happy. Children’s reasoning about such conflicts speaks to philosophical debates about the acceptability of telling a lie when the motive is prosocial (see Bok, 1978)(3). >Honesty/Kohlberg, >Morality/Kohlberg, >Honesty/developmental psychology, >Honesty/cultural psychology.
Slater I 169
[Some] research has addressed lying and truth telling with reference to situations in which a speaker calls positive attention to himself or herself. One focus of this work has been to examine whether children consider it acceptable to falsely deny responsibility for one’s prosocial acts. This topic has been of particular interest due to a strong cultural emphasis on modesty in East Asia (e.g., Bond & Hwang, 1986)(4). For example, children in China are encouraged to be “unsung heroes” and to avoid acknowledging their achievements and prosocial actions (Lee, Cameron, Xu, Fu, & Board, 1997)(5). Evidence from research on the disclosure of one’s own prosocial acts supports the view that cultural influences play an important role in shaping the way children learn to assess the moral
Slater I 170
implications of behavior.



1. Cole, P. M. (1986). Children’s spontaneous control of facial expression. Child Development, 57, 1309—
1321.
2. Saarni, C. (1984). An observational study of children’s attempts to monitor their expressive behavior. Child Development, 55, 1504—1513.
3. Bok, S. (1978). Lying: Moral choice in public and private life. New York: Random House.
4. Bond, M. H., & Hwang, K. K. (1986). The social psychology of Chinese people. In M. H. Bond (Ed.), The psychology of the Chinese people (pp. 213—266). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
5. Lee, K., Cameron, C. A., Xu, F., Fu, G., & Board, J. (1997). Chinese and Canadian children’s evaluations of lying and truth-telling. Child Development. 64,924—934.


Gail D. Heyman and Kang Lee, “Moral Development. Revisiting Kohlberg’s Stages“, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Psychological Theories
Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012


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