The Whole Truth From Five-Year-Olds

y surprised by how much better they did," says Saywitz, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA.

Lyon and Saywitz credit their unique backgrounds for their strides in competency testing. Lyon had worked for eight years as an attorney in the Dependency Division of the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court. Saywitz, meanwhile, treats maltreated children as the director of child and adolescent psychology at Harbor/UCLA Medical Center. They met when Lyon was doing a post-doctoral fellowship in child psychology in UCLA. He pursued the doctorate after working in juvenile court when he was fresh out of Harvard Law School.

"We both have practical experience with the kids in the court system," Saywitz says. "Past researchers in lying among children come from the field of developmental psychology and from a more theoretical than applied perspective."

Remarkably simple, the Lyon-Saywitz test consists of two types of illustrations. The "reality story" shows two boys standing before a judge with a easily identified object such as an apple above the judge's head. A different object appears in "talk bubbles" above each boy's head. One of the objects matches the dominant image (apple), while the other (such as an orange) does not.

"The prosecutor says, 'Listen to what one boy is saying about the picture. He says it's an apple,'" Saywitz explained. "'Now listen to what the other boy says. He says it's an orange. One of the boys is telling the truth and one of the boys is lying. Point to the boy who is lying.'"

For the second phase - "the morality task" - the prosecutor shows the child witness another simple drawing, this time illustrating two children standing before one of four female adults "who want to know what happened": a doctor, grandmother, judge or a "lady who comes to see the boys at home" (a social worker).

"The prosecutor tells the witness that one child is telling the truth and one child told a lie and asks the witness to identify which child 'i

Contact: Meg Sullivan
University of Southern California

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