Secrets and social networks

Sarah K. Cowan

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Secrets are information kept from others; they are relational. They shape the intimacy of our relationships, what we know of others and what we infer about the world. Recent research has promoted two models of voluntary secret disclosure. The first highlights deliberate and strategic disclosure to garner support and to avoid judgment. The second maintains strategic action but foregrounds that disclosures are made in contexts which shape who is in one's social network and who may be the recipient of a disclosure. Work outside of this main vein examines the mechanisms and motivations to share others’ secrets as well as the potential consequences of doing so. The final avenue of inquiry in this review considers how keeping secrets can change (or avoid changing) the size and composition of the secret-keeper's social network and what information is shared within it. Understanding how secrets spread within and form social networks informs work from public health to criminology to organizational management.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)99-104
    Number of pages6
    JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
    StatePublished - Feb 2020

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Psychology


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