Utilizing the Activation-Decision-Construction-Action Theory to predict children's hypothetical decisions to deceive

Joshua Wyman, Hannah Cassidy, Victoria Talwar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Decision component of the Activation-Decision-Construction-Action-Theory (ADCAT) utilizes a cost-benefit formula to explain the cognitive, motivational and social processes involved in deception. Three prior studies suggest that ADCAT can be used to predict adults' future deceptive behavior; however, no study has assessed the potential relevance of ADCAT with children. The present study is the first to date to examine whether this cost-benefit formula can predict children's hypothetical decisions to tell three types of lies, and whether there are specific developmental factors that need to be considered. The results indicate that the cost-benefit formula was only effective for predicting children's hypothetical lies for self-gain at no cost to another (Self-No Cost lies) and lies for others when there was a personal cost (Other-Cost to Self). More specifically, expected value of telling the truth was related to lower willingness to tell hypothetical Self-No Cost and Other-Cost to Self lies. On the other hand, the expected value of lying was not related to children's hypothetical decisions to tell Self-No Cost, Self-Cost to Other or Other-Cost to Self lies. Children's inhibitory control and theory of mind were significant covariates for some of the ADCAT predictor variables and children's hypothetical truth and lying behaviors. Altogether, these findings indicate that the effectiveness of the ADCAT cost-benefit formula for predicting children's lying behavior is affected by developmental factors and the type of lie being analyzed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103339
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021


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