Science Shows Why It's So F***ing Hard to Keep a Secret
There's a scientific reason why so many of us turn into serious blabbermouths at the drop of a hat — and it has nothing to do with gossip that's too juicy to keep to yourself. Turns out, the task of keeping a secret is often too mentally taxing on our brains.
Once we learn a secret, it becomes a "mental effort" to make sure we don't give it away when talking to basically everyone else who's unaware of the secret, psychologist Art Markman wrote for Fast Company. We have to think about what information they already know and don't know.
"Our minds have a limited capacity to process information," Markman wrote. "So if you're engaged in a complex discussion, it may be difficult to keep track of what you're allowed to say and what you aren't, which can lead you to divulge information you shouldn't."
Other studies support the theory of mental multitasking being too much for our feeble, average brains. "If you're doing a lot, you have less attention to monitor your own activity, so you're not aware that you're missing some details," psychology professor David Strayer told Fast Company in 2013.
The toughest secrets to keep our lips sealed about? The ones that would bring negative repercussions to the subjects of the secret. That's because knowing information with such high stakes produces a social tension that urges us to say something that would elicit a reaction from our conversing partner. It's the same tension that tempts us to want to tell our friends about a new artist we just found.
Not to mention that the very act of keeping a secret, which often comes with lying in some capacity, can stress people out.
After all, nobody wants to be called a liar — but that's not much worse than being called a gossip.