Researchers have found that the ability to tell fibs at the age of two is a sign of a fast-developing brain and means children are more likely to have successful lives.
A team of Canadian academics have found that the more plausible the lie, the more quick-witted they will be in later years and the better their abiliy to think on their feet.
"Parents should not be alarmed if their child tells a fib," said Dr Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University who carried out the research. "Almost all children lie. Those who have better cognitive development lie better because they can cover up their tracks. They may make bankers in later life."
Lying involves multiple brain processes, such as integrating sources of information and manipulating the data to their advantage. It is linked to the development of brain regions that allow executive functioning and use higher order thinking and reasoning.
Dr Lee and his team tested 1,200 children aged two to 16 years old. They found at the age of two, 20 per cent of children will lie. This rises to 50 per cent by three and almost 90 per cent at four. The most deceitful age, they discovered, was 12, when almost every child tells lies.
Researchers say there is no link between telling fibs in childhood and any tendency to cheat in exams or to become a fraudster later in life.