The physical burdens of secrecy

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2012 Nov;141(4):619-24. doi: 10.1037/a0027598. Epub 2012 Mar 5.


The present work examined whether secrets are experienced as physical burdens, thereby influencing perception and action. Four studies examined the behavior of people who harbored important secrets, such as secrets concerning infidelity and sexual orientation. People who recalled, were preoccupied with, or suppressed an important secret estimated hills to be steeper, perceived distances to be farther, indicated that physical tasks would require more effort, and were less likely to help others with physical tasks. The more burdensome the secret and the more thought devoted to it, the more perception and action were influenced in a manner similar to carrying physical weight. Thus, as with physical burdens, secrets weigh people down.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Confidentiality / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Social Perception*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult