science

Secrets in social life…In everyday life, we hear about the lives of those we know, and we are, in turn, influenced by what we hear. But sometimes secrets are kept from us. If what we hear and what is kept from us is patterned, then we will be systematically exposed to some influences and not others. This will have implications for all the arenas in which social influence occurs: knowledge, attitudes, norms, and behavior. In this article, i consider how patterns of hearing secrets can affect one outcome: opinions toward that secret. I also discuss how these patterns shape the character and pace of social change more broadly. We know little about patterns of secret hearing, despite their potential effects on processes of social influence. Perhaps people tend to hear gossip, or stigmatizing secrets, that of which they disapprove. Then they have the opportunity to reevaluate their attitudes, not just to the secret, but also to the person whose secret it is. When someone hears the secret that a coworker votes differently than the person does or that the person’s sister has a stigmatized disease, then that contact can effectively occur. Therefore, in the scenario in which we hear stigmatizing secrets, we would anticipate changing attitudes. It is also possible that secret hearing may not be patterned in this way. Perhaps we are more likely to hear secrets to which we are positively predisposed. Then our social circle would appear to our liking and we would perceive it to be more homophilous than it is. Not-hearing these secrets would produce the false impression that personally objectionable occurrences are rarer among one’s acquaintances than they actually are. Translated into the language of the contact hypothesis, in this scenario, an encounter with diversity would effectively not occur, and we would expect attitudes to remain stable. In either scenario, whether a certain kind of person only hears a certain kind of secret affects public opinion. A secret is a…