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Michael Slepian is an Assistant Professor in the Management Division of Columbia Business School. His program of research examines the intersection of secrecy, trust and motivation. Specifically, what are the consequences of secrecy, how do we judge and develop trust, and can we detect when others are holding back information from us? His research reveals that the real problem with secrecy seems not to be having to hide a secret, but have to live with it and think about it. Not only do people mind-wander to their secrets (outside of concealment contexts) far more often than they actively conceal secrets (within social interactions), but only the frequency of mind-wandering to secrets predicts lower well-being, not the frequency of actual concealment (see Slepian et al., 2017, JPSP). His ongoing research examines what leads us to trust others' with our secrets, and what leads those others to earn that trust. His research reveals that a large part of what leads people to be trusted by others is one's own expectations and prior expeirences (see Slepian & Ames, 2016, Psychological Science). Additionally, ongoing research investigates how the social, organizational and psychological dynamics around keeping versus revealing secrets influence variables that govern social and organizational life. For more information see his publications.


New research on secrecy!

Read our recent JPSP, which reveals what secrets people commonly keep, and what is harmful about having a secret. People think about secrets outside of concealment contexts (mind-wander to them) far more often than they actually coneal their secrets within social interactions. Moreover, only the frequency of mind-wandering to secrets, not concealing secrets, predicts lower well-being.


Explore the below graph by hovering over / tapping the data points, which reveal what kind of secret the data points represent.

Slepian, M.L., Chun, J.S., & Mason, M.F. (2017). The experience of secrecy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.