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Spilling the beans about secrets

Close-up image of a man whispering to another man.
Hans Neleman
Getty Images

Our lives are entrenched in secrets — the average person, apparently, keeps as many as 13 of them at any given time. They’re largely regarded as bad for us.

But maybe secrets, like us, are more complex? Is there a time when a secret can be harmless, or even good? Can a secret save lives? And how many people can be involved in one before it all topples down?


  • David Robert Grimes: Scientist and science writer
  • Raneta Lawson Mack: Professor of law emerita at Creighton University School of Law
  • Michael Slepian: Researcher who studies the psychology of secrecy, as well as an associate professor at Columbia Business School; he’s the author of The Secret Life of Secrets

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Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show, which originally aired August 9, 2023.

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Carolyn McCusker helps produce The Colin McEnroe Show. She loves making true radio stories and listening to fake ones. In the past, she’s worked for NPR and WNYC, and she’s glad to be back at CT Public after interning in 2019. Carolyn can be reached at cmccusker@ctpublic.org.