Morality, punishment, and revealing other people’s secrets.

Jessica M. Salerno, Michael L. Slepian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Nine studies represent the first investigation into when and why people reveal other people’s secrets. Although people keep their own immoral secrets to avoid being punished, we propose that people will be motivated to reveal others’ secrets to punish them for immoral acts. Experimental and correlational methods converge on the finding that people are more likely to reveal secrets that violate their own moral values. Participants were more willing to reveal immoral secrets as a form of punishment, and this was explained by feelings of moral outrage. Using hypothetical scenarios (Studies 1, 3–6), two controversial events in the news (hackers leaking citizens’ private information; Study 2a–2b), and participants’ behavioral choices to keep or reveal thousands of diverse secrets that they learned in their everyday lives (Studies 7–8), we present the first glimpse into when, how often, and one explanation for why people reveal others’ secrets. We found that theories of self-disclosure do not generalize to others’ secrets: Across diverse methodologies, including real decisions to reveal others’ secrets in everyday life, people reveal others’ secrets as punishment in response to moral outrage elicited from others’ secrets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Disclosure
  • Moral judgment
  • Moral outrage
  • Punishment
  • Secrecy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Morality, punishment, and revealing other people’s secrets.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this