What do you think when you hear someone say, "I plead the fifth" or "I'd rather not say"? If your answer is something along the lines of skeptical or unbelievable, then you've proven exactly what researchers at Harvard have discovered.
The researchers call them "hiders", or people who choose not to divulge information when asked. Whether it be for an interview or on a date, it turns out that those who choose to not disclose information are seen as untrustworthy compared to their honest counterparts.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are "revealers", people who share information when asked, even if the answer isn't a pretty one. In an interview with the Harvard Gazette, assistant professor and researcher Leslie K. John says:
"Because trustworthiness is a desirable trait, we predict that those who divulge information -- even extremely unsavory information -- will be liked more than those who conceal," a hypothesis that researchers believed was "rooted in Altman and Taylor's social penetration theory, one implication of which is that self-disclosure -- the process of revealing personal information about oneself causes -- relationships to deepen."
In a series of seven experiments, the researchers tested their hypothesis in different environments. One test asked new hires, "Have you done drugs?" and gave them the option of saying yes, no, or choosing not to answer. Surprisingly, 70.5 percent of employees chose not to answer and on the other side, employers were more inclined to hire those who actually said yes.
Although this study says that it's better to reveal "unsavory" information about yourself, they are also quick to point out that this is only true when you are asked a question. Volunteering negative information is a completely different ball game. John continues:
"Contrast that to where you're in a job interview and you have done drugs, but you're not even asked about it so you don't volunteer it. Where you fail to volunteer it, the interviewer isn't going to notice that you didn't divulge."
This all seems fine and dandy, but John admits that a double standard exists:
"When we put people in the role of judgers, like when you judge someone who doesn't disclose, you think they're unsavory. However, when you're in the position yourself to disclose, or to hide, you actually think you should hide the information."
Regardless of the situation you're in, the moral of the story is to maintain honesty when establishing new relationships, for not only will that give your counterpart a better feeling about you, but also save you from having to remember all those little white lies down the line.