Hiding personal information reveals the worst

Leslie K. John, Kate Barasz, Michael I. Norton

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Seven experiments explore people's decisions to share or withhold personal information, and the wisdom of such decisions. When people choose not to reveal information - to be "hiders" - they are judged negatively by others (experiment 1). These negative judgments emerge when hiding is volitional (experiments 2A and 2B) and are driven by decreases in trustworthiness engendered by decisions to hide (experiments 3A and 3B). Moreover, hiders do not intuit these negative consequences: given the choice to withhold or reveal unsavory information, people often choose to withhold, but observers rate those who reveal even questionable behavior more positively (experiments 4A and 4B). The negative impact of hiding holds whether opting not to disclose unflattering (drug use, poor grades, and sexually transmitted diseases) or flattering (blood donations) information, and across decisions ranging from whom to date to whom to hire. When faced with decisions about disclosure, decision-makers should be aware not just of the risk of revealing, but of what hiding reveals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-959
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Disclosure
  • Policy making
  • Privacy
  • Transparency
  • Trust


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