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Suppressing Secrecy Through Metacognitive Ease: Cognitive Fluency Encourages Self-Disclosure

Adam L. Alter and Daniel M. Oppenheimer
Psychological Science
Vol. 20, No. 11 (November 2009), pp. 1414-1420
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40575201
Page Count: 7
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Suppressing Secrecy Through Metacognitive Ease: Cognitive Fluency Encourages Self-Disclosure
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Abstract

Understanding when people reveal unfavorable information about themselves is both practically and theoretically important. Existing research suggests that people tend not to adopt stable disclosure strategies, and consequently disclose too much information in some situations (e.g., embarrassing personal information on Facebook) and too little in other situations (e.g., risky sexual behavior to a physician during diagnosis of a possible sexually transmitted disease). We sought to identify a domain-general cue that predicts self-disclosure patterns. We found that metacognitive ease, or fluency, promoted greater disclosure, both in tightly controlled lab studies (Studies 1a,1b, and 3) and in an ecologically valid on-line field study (Study 4). Disfluency tended to prime thoughts and emotions associated with risk, which might be one reason why people who experience disfluency are less comfortable with self-disclosure (Studies 2 and 3). We conclude by discussing the implications of these results for theory and clinical practice.

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