Doing Science

This afternoon we all went down to the U of T Child Studies Lab (I could be totally making up that name) to participate in some science. We've been on their list since Delphine was a baby, and have participated in a few studies; they're usually fun and interesting—the girls love being guinea pigs. (Except on the way home when they're tired and cranky and hate everything, especially each other.)

Today's study was at a special lab with hidden cameras, in one of those fantastic red brick Victorian (Edwardian?) houses on Spadina.

The study was on lying and tattling. The girls took turns going into the hidden camera room with one of the researchers—I've forgotten all their names because I suck, so let's call her Jenny. Jenny and the girl started drawing pictures, and then another researcher (Michelle!) came in to tell Jenny she had a phone call. Jenny left but not before telling Michelle not to use the paper from the book with stars on it! Only use the paper from the book with the fish on it! Don't forget!

Well, you see where this is going. Sure enough, good old Michelle figured she liked the star paper better, and drew a picture on it; then she decided she didn't like her picture, and threw it out. After all this, Jenny came back into the room and, after Michelle left, asked the girl what had happened when she was away.

(Meanwhile Blake and I were in another room with eight thousand computers, including the monitors for the hidden cameras. We watched the girls while filling out a huge stack of forms and questionnaires on the girls' personalities and our parenting styles.)

Delphine went first. She immediately put her head down and started working intently on her picture. (The kids were asked to draw a picture of their most favourite place; she drew a beach.) She didn't look up or show any sign of noticing the researchers' exchange, to the point that Jenny was very certain to remind Michelle loudly not to use the star paper on the way out the door.

When Michelle used the star paper, Delphine didn't say anything either, and when Jenny later asked what had happened the exchange went something like this:

J: So what happened when I was gone?
D: I just drew a picture.
J: Did Michelle draw anything?
D: Yes, she drew a picture but she threw it away.
J: Did she use the star paper?
D: Yes.

Cordelia was a little different. (Cordelia is a little different.) She also set to work drawing a picture of her favourite place—she drew our house. (*melt*) She was much more voluble and animated, though, talking through what she was drawing and why. When Michelle came in, she looked up and paid attention to the whole conversation. Then when Michelle started to use the star paper, Cordelia was quick to remind her that she wasn't supposed to use it.

After Jenny was back in the room, she asked Cordelia the same questions she had asked Delphine:

J: So what happened when I was gone?
C: I just drew my picture! (She still talks all in exclamations, with lots of body language.)
J: Did Michelle draw a picture?
C: Nope!
J: She didn't draw anything?
C: She didn't draw anything! (This said with a great big "Who can figure?!" shrug.)

So Cordelia fully lied to a quasi-authority figure, to protect someone she had barely met. It was almost just lying for the sake of it. There was a chart in the room we were in that showed the percentage of kids who lie from ages three to, I think, eight, and almost 100% of six-year-olds lie. I call it "peak lying".

This study was interestingly timed, because I've noticed Cordelia lying more lately. The thing is she's much better at it than Delphine. She tends to lie when it's plausible, and she sticks to her story, often with a touch of righteous indignation to make you feel like a jerk for not trusting her. Hopefully she'll either grow out of it or learn to use her power for good, not evil.

After the study was over, the researchers sat everyone down and explained what had happened, and then sent the girls on a hidden camera hunt. Delphine revealed that she had been a bit suspicious about all the fuss over the paper, and Cordelia looked a bit sheepish.

The end of the story is that the girls got to choose a gift out of a treasure chest to thank them for participating. Delphine chose a "make your own bouncy balls" kit, and Cordelia picked through the entire box before finally seeing and pouncing on a ninja action figure with light-up eyes. ($1.25 at Dollarama!)