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Expert in secrets reveals the one people keep most often

Emily Brown

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Expert in secrets reveals the one people keep most often

Featured Image Credit: Supplied/Andriy Popov/Alamy Stock Photo

A professor and an 'expert on the psychology of secrets' has revealed the one secret people most often keep to themselves.

From little omissions like scoffing a whole packet of biscuits and disposing of the evidence before you even get back from the shop, to concealing something much bigger, like infidelity or even knowledge of a crime, pretty much everyone has secrets they keep from others.

Michael Slepian, an author and Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics in New York, decided to delve into research of secrets by exploring the burden keeping secrets can have on us, questioning whether they really can weigh us down.

Michael Slepian has conducted studies on the impacts of secrets. Credit: Supplied
Michael Slepian has conducted studies on the impacts of secrets. Credit: Supplied

Interestingly, Slepain's study found that just thinking about secrets prompted people to judge hills as steeper, distances as further, and tasks as taking more effort, revealing they can impact us even when we're not talking about them. Despite this, we can't seem to stop keeping them.

Slepain told LADbible he couldn't offer an example of one particular secret that everyone keeps, but there is one people are most often reluctant to share.

It probably goes without saying that people who are cheating on their partners don't want them finding out, and therefore go out of their way to lie about who they're talking to, where they are and who they're with. However, the secret people most often keep isn't about physically cheating.

Instead, Slepain explained, people strive to hide 'extra-relational thoughts'. This is when you're in a relationship, but have some kind of romantic thought about someone who isn't your other half.

It might be in a dream, while watching a movie or just while walking down the street, but the professor said people 'often have this experience', and when they do, 'they often keep it to themselves'.

Slepian believes the best thing you can do with secrets is share them with third parties. Credit: Realimage/Alamy Stock Photo
Slepian believes the best thing you can do with secrets is share them with third parties. Credit: Realimage/Alamy Stock Photo

Admittedly you could probably get away with telling your partner you've got a crush on Jennifer Lawrence or Chris Evans, but sharing every single extra-relational thought that might pop into your head without any bad intention would no doubt take its toll on your other half, which is why it's probably best to keep them to yourself.

Exactly how used to keeping secrets you are might come down to your personality type, as Slepain has studied the personality traits associated with keeping secrets and found some people keep more than others.

The expert found that extraverted people tend to keep fewer secrets, while introverted people keep their cards closer to the chest. People who are more conscientious and careful also keep more secrets, while those who are less careful keep fewer.

The reason we typically keep secrets is to protect something, Slepain explained, though he found the best thing people can do to help lift the burden is discuss it with a third party, noting: "While keeping a secret can protect whatever is the imagined outcome of revealing a secret, it often brings harms of its own."

Michael Slepian has revealed some people keep more secrets than others. Credit: Supplied
Michael Slepian has revealed some people keep more secrets than others. Credit: Supplied

Some of the best people to confide in include those who are compassionate and nonjudgemental, with Slepain noting it's probably best to 'avoid the social butterfly'. He also advised against speaking to someone who will be shocked by what you're telling them, explaining: "We see that when someone believes that a secret they learned is morally objectionable, they are more likely to reveal the secret to a third party, essentially as a form of punishment. Someone who thinks similarly to you would be a safer bet."

Unfortunately for the more nosy or suspicious of you out there, there's no surefire way to tell if someone's keeping a secret. You might be able to tell if something is bothering someone who you're close to by spotting a change in behaviour, but Slepain said that 'tells' such as looking to the right or avoiding eye contact aren't actually valid.

You can learn more about secrets in Slepain's book, The Secret Life of Secrets: How Our Inner Worlds Shape Well-Being Relationships, and Who We Are.

Topics: Sex and Relationships, Science

Emily Brown
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