An eye-opening look at the psychology of why we keep the secrets we keep, how to better understand and cope with them, and when (and how) we should bring them to light.
Think of a secret that you're keeping from others. It shouldn't take long; behavioural scientist Michael Slepian finds that on average, we are keeping as many as thirteen secrets at any given time. His research involving more than 50,000 participants from around the globe shows that the most common secrets include: lies we've told, addiction or mental health challenges, a hidden relationship, financial struggles and more.
Our secrets can weigh heavily upon us. Yet the burden of secrecy, Slepian argues, rarely stems from the work it takes to keep a secret hidden. Rather, secrets are something we must "carry" because we do so alone, without the support of others. Whether we are motivated to protect our reputation, a relationship or a loved one's feelings, or are pursuing some personal or professional goal, one thing is clear: holding back some part of our inner world is often lonely and isolating. But it doesn't have to be.
Filled with fresh insight into one of the most universal-yet least understood-aspects of human behaviour, The Secret Life of Secrets sheds a fascinating new light on questions like: At what age do children develop the cognitive capacity for secrecy? Do all secrets come with the same mental load? How can we reconcile our secrets with the human desire to relate, connect and be known? When should we confess our secrets? Who makes for the ideal confidant? And can certain types of secrets actually enhance our wellbeing?
Drawing on over a decade of original research, Slepian reveals the surprising ways that secrets pervade our lives, and offers science-based strategies that make them easier to live with. The result is a rare window into the inner workings of our minds, our relationships and our sense of who we are.
'If you've ever wondered why we keep secrets and what motivates us to spill them, look no further. Michael Slepian has spent the past decade studying the psychology of secrets, and is ready to reveal his findings to the world' Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again
'Everybody has them, keeps them, betrays them, and wonders about them. Wonder no more. This delightful and fascinating new book reveals the hidden psychology of our secrets' Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor and bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness
'Michael Slepian is the first scientist to take on the challenging task of studying what we hide away. In this wonderfully fascinating book, he helps us better understand not only the universal nature of our secrets, but also the specifics of how they relate to our relationships and well-being-offering profound insights that help us make better choices' Sheena Iyengar, Columbia University professor and author of The Art of Choosing
'In this eye-opening and engrossing debut, Michael Slepian, one of psychology's most eminent rising stars, weaves cutting-edge science with captivating stories to explain a topic equal parts familiar and mysterious: keeping secrets. Entertaining, informative, and scientifically precise, this is nonfiction writing at its best' Ethan Kross, bestselling author of Chatter
'I loved this book! A major advance in psychology, The Secret Life of Secrets gracefully blends engaging stories with compelling science. In the secrets that you carry, you will discover a hidden self' Sonja Lyubomirsky, distinguished University of California, Riverside professor and author of The How of Happiness
'We all keep secrets, but it turns out that our intuitions of what to do with them are often wrong. The Secret Life of Secrets sheds light on why we conceal, and the power of confessing, confiding and letting go' Jonah Berger, Wharton Professor and bestselling author of The Catalyst and Contagious
'The Secret Life of Secrets is that rare book that combines original research on the cost of keeping secrets with poignant stories of how sharing secrets can deepen relationships and transform lives' Frank Warren, Founder of PostSecret
Michael Slepian is the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia University. A recipient of the Rising Star Award from the Association for Psychological Science, he is the leading expert on the psychology of secrets. Slepian has authored more than fifty articles on secrecy, truth and deception. His research has been covered by The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, NPR and the BBC.