Why people disclose personal information they later regret?

Automatic responses are usually things that people would try to conceal from others


People disclose information that they are usually cautious about concealing when they are increasingly awake and alert, according to a study.

The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggests that the degree to which someone is awake and alert causes people to say things automatically rather than think things through before speaking.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia said automatic responses are usually things that people would try to conceal from others, and may cause regret.

"Ironically, the times when we're most awake and alert are also the times when we have to be very careful about what we say—like job interviews, media engagements, important work meetings, or even romantic encounters," said Brent Coker, coauthor of the study.

The first study asked participants to write a dating profile and found that alert people disclosed more embarrassing, emotional, intimate, and incriminating information about themselves than those who were relatively relaxed.

A follow-up study on the same data found that the awake participants' profiles were less attractive for dating than those of the more relaxed participants, suggesting that disclosing too much information also negatively affects people's attractiveness.

The second study looked at online trolling behaviour and, how likely people are to reveal instances when they said mean or malicious things to others online.

The study found that people are more likely to disclose information one would not normally disclose when they are aroused.

The third study found that people are more likely to disclose highly personal information after physical exercise.

"Saying the wrong thing in the wrong moment may create awkwardness, be offensive, damage trust, or harm perceptions towards our character.

"Politicians and CEOs seem to do it all the time. We really need to make an extra effort to control what comes out of our mouths during times of stress—which might explain why so many people have arguments over Christmas," Coker said.

According to Coker, the secret to increasing the accuracy of what we say is to try to adopt daily strategies to reduce stress, since stress is related to alertness. 

(With inputs from PTI)