OISE's Kang Lee wins SSHRC Impact Award for research on childhood dishonesty

Lee was honoured for his research on child moral development – specifically, how children learn to tell lies

Kang Lee, a professor at OISE, is a world-renowned expert on childhood dishonesty (supplied image) 

Kang Lee, a professor in the department of applied psychology and human development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, has received the 2023 Insight Award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

The award, which comes with a $50,000 prize, recognizes outstanding achievement arising from SSHRC-funded initiatives. Lee, a world-renowned expert on childhood dishonesty, was honoured for his research – spanning three decades – on child moral development: specifically, how children learn to tell lies.

Lee’s work is credited with transforming our understanding of the development of lying, whilst having far-reaching implications and impacts on real-world practices. For example, his work led to Canadian law reforms in 2005 concerning obtaining evidence from children. Since 2006, a legal procedure based on his research must be employed to admit children as witnesses in Canadian criminal courts.

“I am deeply grateful for SSHRC’s strong commitment to supporting social science research like that of mine,” said Lee, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair. “Because of this commitment, our lab was able to make practical contributions far beyond those we could have ever foreseen.

“These include impacts on legal reforms concerning child witnesses in Canada, advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of children with conduct problems, and the invention of a new imaging technology to monitor and study people’s physical and mental health using smartphones.”

The imaging technology developed by Lee – transdermal optimal imaging – measures physiological changes to the human body, like heart rate and blood pressure, simply by looking at a person’s face. The technology led to cutting-edge applications like Anura, which uses smartphone selfie videos to assess physical and mental health wellness, and is powered by the DeepAffex cloud engine.

“Professor Lee’s research has made a broad impact across critical areas in education, and his exceptional scholarship, teaching, and mentoring of educational researchers are remarkable contributions to the field, to OISE, and to U of T,” said Professor Erica Walker, dean of OISE.

“He is highly deserving of this Insight Award, a prestigious honour for an outstanding professor. On behalf of the OISE community, I wholeheartedly congratulate Professor Lee for this significant recognition from SSHRC.”

Lee thanked the more than 10,000 children who participated in his studies on the development of deception, and have since grown into successful adults – professors, lawyers and thriving students. “Rest assured, their childhood tales have not led them astray,” he says.

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