As a human, you might tell someone a confidential thing and ask them not to share with anyone. That confidential thing is the secret that intentionally hidden from someone else. Some of us are better at keeping secrets than others.
Although there might be 3 reasons behind why someone would want to keep a secret. 1. The person gains a strategic advantage from having information that other people don’t have. 2. The information would have negative consequences for the secret holder if it were more widely known. 3. The information would have negative consequences for other individuals if they found out about it.
And here are two aspects of secrets that seem pretty intuitively obvious. 1. Keeping secrets probably makes you feel worse than you would if you were not keeping a secret. 2. The most stressful part of keeping a secret is hiding it from the people you don’t want to tell.
According to a new study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a potential problem with keeping secrets is that you have a goal to keep the information secret. In this way, your motivational system gives you opportunities to achieve your goals when you see something related to the goal in the environment.
This mechanism helps you keep thinking about the information you are trying to keep secret. That’s why hiding information may be stressful. It’s not because of the activity of hiding it from a person. It may be stressful, because you may keep thinking about that information, which reminds you that you have a secret.
Scientists tested the approach in 10 studies. During the 1 st study, they identified 38 types of secrets people routinely keep. Later, they asked participants, which of these types of secrets they have kept in their lives and which of these secrets they are keeping at the moment.
In addition, they asked participants, how they felt while hiding information to someone. Participants noted, they were about three times more often than actively hiding it. It also decreased their sense of overall well-being.
Scientists found that the decrease in happiness was related to the several times’ people thought about the secret. They also found that it associated with poorer health.
Remaining studies focused on secrets kept from romantic partners to ensure this effect is not just a result of general secrets. These studies also found the same pattern as earlier. Meanwhile, keeping secrets from a romantic partner led to decreases in well-being.
In other words, findings suggest that secrets can be bad for your mental and physical health. The stress caused by secrets arises because people think about the information they are hiding.