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Thinking Through Secrets: Rethinking the Role of Thought Suppression in Secrecy.

Authors
  • Slepian, Michael L1
  • Greenaway, Katharine H2
  • Masicampo, E J3
  • 1 Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
  • 2 The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 3 Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Personality & social psychology bulletin
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2020
Volume
46
Issue
10
Pages
1411–1427
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1177/0146167219895017
PMID: 32107972
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Having secrets on the mind is associated with lower well-being, and a common view of secrets is that people work to suppress and avoid them-but might people actually want to think about their secrets? Four studies examining more than 11,000 real-world secrets found that the answer depends on the importance of the secret: People generally seek to engage with thoughts of significant secrets and seek to suppress thoughts of trivial secrets. Inconsistent with an ironic process account, adopting the strategy to suppress thoughts of a secret was not related to a tendency to think about the secret. Instead, adopting the strategy to engage with thoughts of a secret was related the tendency to think about the secret. Moreover, the temporal focus of one's thoughts moderated the relationship between mind-wandering to the secret and well-being, with a focus on the past exacerbating a harmful link. These results suggest that people do not universally seek to suppress their secrets; they also seek to engage with them, although not always effectively.

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