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Check out the three IntroSems being offered this summer, and apply in the IntroSems' VCA.

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PSYC 55N: Secrecy

A billboard encouraging secrecy amongst Oak Ridge workers during the World War II Manhattan Project. The date is Dec. 31, 1943. Dept. of Energy archives. By James E. Westcott

Meet the Instructor | General Education Requirement

Course Description

Secrets are everywhere: in our personal lives, in our families, in our work, in our governments, and even, according to religion and poets, in our hearts. What is a secret and why do we keep them? How do we do secrecy? What is the cost—and the burden—of secret-keeping? Is it possible to keep secrets without telling lies?  

The primary focus of this seminar will be professional secrecy, as we explore corporate confidentiality and the secret-keeping expected of all of us as professionals. Particular attention will be given to the mandated secrecy required of clergy, physicians, psychologists, attorneys, and those who are engaged in issues of national security. Participants in this seminar will gain awareness of multiple types of professional secrecy, including classification schemes such as SECRET and TOP SECRET, and will learn strategies for keeping secrets. We will also explore psychology of secrecy, and secret-keeping in relationships. Throughout the course, we will apply a framework of ethical reasoning to better understand our willingness to keep secrets and our decision to betray secrets and will grapple with the practical and ethical intersection of secrets, lies and obfuscation.

General Education Requirement

Meet the Instructor

James R. Jacobs MD PhD

James R. Jacobs MD PhD

"I started my career on the faculty at Duke University with a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, teaching in the School of Engineering and doing research in the Department of Anesthesiology. I eventually went to medical school, became Board-certified in Emergency Medicine, and have spent the second half of my career as a physician and administrator. My role at Stanford is that of executive director of Vaden Health Services, associate vice provost in Student Affairs, and faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine. Secrets are ubiquitous to life and profession, but my particular interests in secrecy were intensified by a year spent as a visiting scholar in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and subsequent work training aspiring intelligence analysts."

Learn more about James R. Jacobs, MD PhD