60-Second Mind

Keeping Secrets Weighs You Down, Literally

New research finds that keeping a secret can make you feel as if you are physically burdened. Christie Nicholson reports

Can you keep a secret? We refer to keeping secrets as if they are material things. And a new study suggests that when we know a secret, we perceive ourselves as being physically burdened. 

Researchers recruited participants to write a description of either a serious secret, like a story of infidelity or sexual orientation, or a more trivial secret. Then they looked at a hill straight on and were asked to rate the hill’s steepness. Those subjects who wrote about an important secret perceived the hills as steeper than those who wrote about trivial secrets. The research is in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Earlier studies have shown that people who are physically weighted down also perceive hills as steeper than those who are not.

In a separate investigation, researchers found that subjects who recalled a significant secret also judged a target to be further off in the distance than those who remembered a less meaningful secret.

Hmm. So maybe divulging secrets will relieve you of a burden—then again, we better wait for a study on how stressful it is to lose every friend who confides in you.

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]


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