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Self-disclosure has long been a site of research in clinical and social psychology, where it suffers the fate of many interactional phenomena. It is operationalized (typically, into a set of bald statements of varying intimacy), and measured as a dependent variable (subject to the operation of factors like the age or gender of the discloser, the degree of acquaintance with the disclosed-to recipient, the expectation of reciprocity and so on), or manipulated as a causative independent variable (which affects such things as the perception of the discloser, the effectiveness of therapy, and so on). This treatment of self-disclosure, embedded in a research culture of a-contextual, experimenter-defined phenomena, risks missing the point that in ordinary life, self-disclosure is a social performance which must be brought off in interaction, and has its interactional context and its interactional consequences. When we examine examples of such brought-off disclosures, we start to see patterns in their design as voluntary revelations of personal data, and patterns in their social function, which are invisible to the standard factors and measures paradigm of experimental social psychology. © 2005 The British Psychological Society.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Social Psychology

Publication Date





181 - 199