The Big Picture: The science of your secrets

By: Annie Sragner, Assistant Arts & Life Editor

When you first acquire a secret, you alone constitute 100 percent of the people that know it. As more people learn about it, that number gets lower. When one more person knows, then you become 50 percent of the people that know. One more becomes 33 percent and so on. The more people that know, the less ownership of the secret you have. Depending on the seriousness or severity of the secret, it makes a big difference who knows.

These whispered words have the power to isolate and unite us. Secrets are the currency of intimacy and sharing them provides a bridge of connection between the two engaging parties. Sharing the undisclosed-able with another person allows for closeness to catalyze and for trust to build. Secrets can be beneficial for all kinds of relationships. Hearing them can be special, a shared signal of comfort and mutual importance. Reliance on each other makes us more open to trustworthy listening.

Ethos is one of the three major pillars of rhetoric, along with logos and pathos. Ethos is what makes speakers credible because it constructs what others believe about the source. The amount of trust we have toward a source determines if we consider it good or bad or right or wrong.

Ethos is also what brings certainty to science. We are prone to believe what science tells us because the test of time has built an aura of trust around it. Science is essentially the quest for truth, so by habit, society usually associates it with good moral stature. Quick judgments and environmental bias should never occur in true science, because scientific conclusions never form at face value without first assessing the whole picture. Scientific findings only become “fact” once deep and consistent proof of truth is found. The same can be said for character.

In relationships, like in science, the concealment of truth has a dark side. Secret-sharers lower walls; secret-concealers build them.

Approach life yielding your truth while maintaining your proof.  The scientific method shouldn’t just exist in labs.  But, as in labs, the real world sometimes changes the circumstances and secrets must be held.

Secrets are like little tests of our dependability. Everyone has secrets, they are the soft underbelly of our reputations.  Outside of ourselves, all we truly have is trust and the magnitude of which we can depend on each other. So handle secrets with care: Yours and others. Your ethos depends on it.

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