Secrecy, Trust, and Dangerous Leisure: Generating Group Cohesion in Voluntary Organizations

Gary Alan Fine, Lori Holyfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


The development and effects of group cohesion have been a long-standing concern in the small-group literature. Through an ethnographic examination of a leisure activity involving risk-mushroom collecting-we analyze how voluntary leisure groups maintain members' allegiance and affiliation, and thus create cohesion. Trust (communal concern) and secrecy (individual self-interest), based originally on information and subsequently on relationships, are critical to group stability. Groups provide arenas in which new members can place their trust in "experts," thus receiving protective information and developing rewarding relationships to keep them from danger. Yet the openness of information has limits. Competitive relationships, which also tie members to the group, depend on privately held knowledge. As a result, even in cohesive groups committed to mutual support, information is a valued resource. Each member is expected to develop secrets and to shelter them from others in most circumstances. Trust and secrecy are compatible in those voluntary organizations in which all members can gain access to private knowledge while placing their trust in colleagues to share protective information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-38
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Secrecy, Trust, and Dangerous Leisure: Generating Group Cohesion in Voluntary Organizations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this