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It's Both What You Said and the Way You Said It: Secret-Sharing and Interpersonal Evaluations


Sharing secrets is common in everyday life, yet we know relatively little about how secret-sharing behaviors influence evaluations of those who share secrets. The present studies examined how we evaluate others based on the type of secret (personal vs. secondhand), who shares the secret (close friend vs. acquaintance), and its sharing breadth (exclusive vs. nonexclusive). Participants read brief vignettes about a secret being shared and evaluated the secret-sharer on trustworthiness, closeness with the recipient, and social utility. In Study 1, sharing a personal secret led to higher ratings of trustworthiness and closeness relative to sharing a secondhand secret, regardless of who shared the secret, and sharing a secondhand secret led to higher ratings of social utility. In Study 2, we found a consistent interaction between secret type and sharing breadth. Compared to sharing a secret exclusively with one person, sharing a personal secret nonexclusively decreased closeness ratings, and sharing a secondhand secret nonexclusively decreased trustworthiness ratings. Lastly, social utility was highest for sharing a personal secret nonexclusively. These findings suggest that both the type of secret and how many people it is shared with have important implications for intimacy and trust in close relationships, as well as demonstrating social value.

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