If you're holding back on revealing negative secrets about yourself, new survey results in a social psychology journal say you can relax; most people don't care.

When study participants pushed through fear to reveal a secret, those in whom they confided were significantly more charitable than they expected. This was a marketing experiment, not real life, but the authors say recipients appreciated the trust, honesty, and vulnerability needed to reveal secrets.

Here are some findings.

Too-Low Expectations. Researchers asked several groups to imagine revealing a negative secret and to predict how another person would judge them. Then they asked each participant to reveal the secret to that person, and they gathered the recipients’ responses. The expected judgment was consistently worse than the actual judgment.

Miscalibrated Expectations. People were driven to reveal or conceal based on how they thought others would evaluate them. If we believe other people will think we’re less trustworthy, that can really impact our decision to conceal information.

In the experiments, though, disclosure had the opposite effect. Recipients rated the revealers’ honesty and trustworthiness more highly than the revealers expected.

Across Relationships. Participants divulged secrets to strangers, acquaintances, close friends, family members, and romantic partners — all with similar results. Their expectations were slightly more accurate for close others, but they were still systematically miscalibrated, even for the closest people in their lives.

Dark vs. Light Secrets. The participants revealed a wide range of negative information, from admitting they had never learned to ride a bike to confessing infidelity. They predicted that more serious secrets would generate worse judgments.

But even for darker secrets, they still overestimated the impact. 

Honesty Feels Good. In one study, researchers told participants what they had learned: that people overestimate the negative impact of revelations. The news shifted participants’ attitudes toward more openness.

When challenged to confess that they had told a lie, only 56% of participants did. But in another group, where participants were told they would probably not be judged harshly, 92% chose to reveal their lies.

Building Trust With Co-workers. Although none of the experiments were run in business settings, Kumar says the lessons can be applied there.