Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Department of Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Alan Sillars

Commitee Members

Luke Conway, Stephen Yoshimura


disclosure, imagined interactions, information management, health, secrets


University of Montana


This study examined the influence of imagined interactions on the decision to reveal secrets and some health outcomes. Recent research has only begun to investigate how individuals decide to reveal or conceal secrets. It is accepted that people base decisions to reveal on predictions of expected outcomes of revealing/concealing (Caughlin, Afifi, Carpetner-Theune, & Miller, 2005). Imagined interactions, the imagined cognitive rehearsal of potential conversations, are proposed to serve as a mechanism for making predictions, which influences the decision to reveal. Particularly, imagined interactions where hypothesized to influence one’s expected outcomes and increase one’s confidence in feeling like they can communicate the secret effectively. Other research suggests that imagined revelation also influences health outcomes (Rodriguez & Kelly, 2006). It was hypothesized that imagining a negative reaction on the part of a confidant would result in more illness in the future. Two separate questionnaires, separated by two months, were used to assess these hypotheses. Participants first described a secret they were keeping from an individual and how they imagined telling that secret to that person. At the second data collection, participants reported whether the secret had been revealed, how that revelation took place, and experienced affective and physical health over the last two months. Results indicated that imagined interactions predict secret revelation. Participants who imagined frequent, positive, specific, rehearsed, and self-understanding conversations were more likely to reveal their secrets, had more positive expected outcomes, and were more confident in their ability to communicate the secret. Additionally, people who had positive secrets and infrequent, positive, and cathartic imagined interactions experienced less physical illness and more negative affect in the two months after the initial questionnaire. These findings offer new insight into how people decide to disclose secrets, and how the imagination, irrespective of revelation, can influence health.



© Copyright 2009 Adam Stephens Richards