College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-21-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD

Second Advisor

Ralph Erber, PhD

Third Advisor

Yan Li, PhD


This dissertation, comprised of three studies, explores goals and antecedents of sharing and keeping personal secrets, examines how secret-sharing and secret-keeping experiences differ and are perceived to differ, and investigates the emotional outcomes of sharing and keeping secrets. It also suggests two potential “triggers” which may lead to increased impulsive secret-sharing. Study 1 explored, retrospectively, how secret-sharing and secret-keeping experiences align and differ. It found key differences between these experiences, particularly regarding motivations, level of planning, contextual factors, confidant perceptions, and the emotional consequences related to the decision. Study 2 examined perceptions of secret-keeping and secret-sharing decisions and predicted emotional consequences through the use of vignettes. This study uncovered differences across perceptions of secret-sharing and secret-keeping situations, including differences in perceived risk associated with the secret, level of planning, confidant perceptions, and the emotional consequences pertaining to the decision. Comparisons between Studies 1 and 2 pinpointed several mismatches between participant predictions and perceptions (Study 2) and actual experiences (Study 1), which might play a role in why people’s secret-sharing and secret-keeping experiences do not always lead to their intended outcomes. Finally, Study 3 used an experimental manipulation to investigate the influence of one of the potential secret-sharing triggers – reciprocity pressure – on secret-sharing behavior in real time using a novel paradigm. While not finding the expected effect of the threat manipulation, the results of Study 3 point to the influence of a different potential secret-sharing trigger – psychological distress – on secret-sharing perceptions and behavior. The culmination of findings from this dissertation refined the working model of impulsive secret-sharing and its predictions to advance research and inform ways to remedy maladaptive tendencies in secret-sharing.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons