This Is How Many Secrets You Can Actually Keep, According To A New Study

Two women gossiping

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Published on

A new study has shone some light upon the number of secrets that the average person is currently keeping.

A team of researchers led by Michael Slepian, professor of management at Columbia Business School, collated 13,000 real life secrets that had already been recorded across 10 previous studies, to discover what we’re most likely to conceal. They broke these down into 38 common categories, ranging from cheating on a partner to petty theft to a secret hobby, then asked their 2,000 new participants if they were currently keeping a secret that fell under these umbrellas.

On average, participants were found to be keeping 13 out of the 38 common secrets – five of which they had never once shared with another person. Most prevalent amongst these super-secrets were romantic desire, sexual behaviour and telling lies.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, also turned its attention to how keeping secrets affects the way we behave, and found that we’re actually more likely to concern ourselves with secrets when we’re alone, rather than when we’re trying to conceal them in social interactions.

‘People have this curious way of talking about secrets as laying them down or unburdening them,’ lead researcher Michael Slepian told The Atlantic

‘We found that when people were thinking about their secrets, they actually acted as if they were burdened by physical weight. It seems to have this powerful effect even when they’re not hiding a secret in the moment.’

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