Big secrets do not necessarily cause hills to appear steeper
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Slepian, Masicampo, Toosi, and Ambady (Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141, 619–624, 2012, Study 1) found that individuals recalling and writing about a big, meaningful secret judged a pictured hill as steeper than did those who recalled and wrote about a small, inconsequential secret (with estimates unrelated to physical effort unaffected). From an embodied cognition perspective, this result was interpreted as suggesting that important secrets weigh people down. Answering to mounting calls for the crucial need of independent direct replications of published findings to ensure the self-correcting nature of our science, we sought to corroborate Slepian et al.’s finding in two extremely high-powered, preregistered studies that were very faithful to all procedural and methodological details of the original study (i.e., same cover story, study title, manipulation, measures, item order, scale anchors, task instructions, sampling frame, population, and statistical analyses). In both samples, we were unsuccessful in replicating the target finding. Although Slepian et al. reported three other studies supporting the secret burdensomeness phenomenon, we advise that these three other findings need to be independently corroborated before the general phenomenon informs theory or health interventions.
KeywordsEmbodied cognition Secrecy Concealment of secrets Independent direct replication
We would like to thank Michael Slepian for his cooperation in providing study materials and procedural and methodological details. We also thank Yang Ye for preparing online study materials and for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This research was supported by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) postdoctoral fellowship to the first author.
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