Putative secrets: When information is supposedly a secret

John P. Caughlin, Allison M. Scott, Laura E. Miller, Veronica Hefner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Secrets are common within relationships. Sometimes, unbeknownst to a secret keeper, a relational partner learns a secret but allows the keeper to believe that the secret is still unknown. This article summarizes two investigations of such instances, which we call putative secrets. Study 1 (N = 207) provided a descriptive base of putative secret topics, means by which secrets are kept, and perceived reasons for keeping secrets. Study 2 (N = 383) found that the relational impact of putative secrets depended on the secret topic, individuals' perceptions of the topic, the ways the secret was kept, and the perceived reasons for keeping the secret. There were also theoretically interesting interactions among the reasons for keeping the secret.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-743
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Closeness
  • Deception
  • Disclosure
  • Hurt feelings
  • Privacy
  • Relational distancing
  • Secrets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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