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The bright side of secrecy: The energizing effect of positive secrets.

Existing wisdom holds that secrecy is burdensome and fatiguing. However, past research has conflated secrecy with the kinds of adverse events that are often kept secret. As a result, it is unclear whether secrecy is inherently depleting, or whether these consequences vary based on the underlying meaning of the secret. We resolve this confound by examining the consequences of positive secrets. In contrast to the prior research, five experiments (N = 2,800) find that positive secrets increase feelings of energy, relative to (a) content-matched positive non-secrets, (b) other pieces of unknown positive information, and (c) other kinds of secrets. Importantly, these energizing effects of positive secrets were independent of positive affect. We further found that positive secrets are energizing because, compared to other kinds of secrets, people keep them for more intrinsically than extrinsically motivated reasons. That is, these secrets are more freely chosen, more consistent with personal values, and more motivated by internal desires (than by external pressures). Using both measures and manipulations of these motivations, we found that a motivational mechanism helps explain the energizing effect of positive secrets. The present results offer new insights into secrecy, how people respond to positive life events, and the subjective experiences of vitality and energy. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

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