Currently viewing the tag: "blame"

Hurricane Katrina

When we’re threatened we defend ourselves — and our systems. Before 9/11, for instance, President George W. Bush was sinking in the polls. But as soon as the planes hit the World Trade Center, the president’s approval ratings soared. So did support for Congress and the police. During Hurricane Katrina, America witnessed FEMA’s spectacular failure to rescue the hurricane’s victims. Yet many people blamed those victims for their fate rather than admitting the agency flunked and supporting ideas for fixing it. In times of crisis… we want to believe the system works. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene about a character’s reaction to a crisis.

Journaling Prompt: Have you judged the victims of a crisis because you wanted to keep intact your belief that the system works?

Art Prompt: Disaster

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Explain to your audience the natural response to crisis and formulate a model for a more constructive method of responding.

Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video on Flickr

Congress! do the right thing

New findings from researchers at Boston College and Northwestern University show that the more cohesive a group appears — be it a corporation, political party, governmental entity, pro sports team or other organization — the more likely it is that people will hold its members less responsible for their own individual actions. The study, published in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science, sheds light on why people tend to address hostility toward large companies or other collectives, while still treating members of those groups as unique individuals…

Similarly, a strong brand image, generally considered to be a corporate or organizational asset, could contribute to consumers’ perception of single-mindedness, meaning the brand would be more likely to be held accountable for its employees’ or members’ actions. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene or story about how a group uses this tendency to get away with something illegal.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your feelings about corporate misbehavior.

Art Prompt: Group Thingk

Photo Credit: americans4financialreform on Flickr


“For a long time we’ve asked ourselves, ‘How come smart, rational people carry out short-term schemes that in the long-term undoubtedly are going to sink them?'” says author Ramy Elitzur, who holds the Edward J. Kernaghan Professorship in Financial Analysis and is an associate professor of accounting.

“The answer is — we’re not rational. We’re rational only in a limited sense.”

The study bases its findings on a model of the manager-owner relationship over time. The model is also noteworthy for combining principles of game theory — used to predict strategic behaviour — with the idea of bounded rationality — that our decisions are always made within the limits of available time, information, and the human capacity to analyze it. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a story or scene about someone who carries out a scheme doomed to fail.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you misjudged a situation.

Art Prompt: Scheming

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about a scheme that suckered in a lot of people and what we can learn by studying it.

Photo Credit: Big C Harvey on Flickr

Interrogation (255/365)

Confessions, when true, are an important tool in convicting criminals. But false confessions frequently play a major role in convicting innocent people. Experiments show that juries and potential witnesses are influenced by confessions even if they know they were coerced. Also in the lab, experienced polygraph examiners, fingerprint experts, and other experts, when informed of a confession, see what they expect to see — that is, evidence of guilt…

To back up these findings with real-life data, the psychologists thoroughly reviewed the trial records of 241 people exonerated by the Innocence Project since 1992. Of these, 59 — or 25 percent — involved false confessions, either by the defendant or an alleged accomplice. One-hundred eighty — or 75 percent — involved eyewitness mistakes. The analysis revealed that multiple errors turned up far more often in false confession cases than in eyewitness cases: 69 percent versus fewer than half. And two thirds of the time, the confession came first, followed by other errors, namely invalid forensic science and government informants.

Kassin believes the findings “greatly underestimate the problem” because of what never shows up in court: evidence of innocence. Told the suspect confessed, “alibi witnesses back out, thinking they’re mistaken,” police stop searching for the real culprit. “We show that confessions bring in other incriminating evidence that is false. What we don’t see is a tendency to suppress exculpatory evidence.”

The study throws doubt on a critical legal concept designed to safeguard the innocent: corroboration. Appeals courts uphold a conviction even if a false confession is discovered, as long as other evidence — say, forensics or other witness testimony — independently shows guilt. “What these findings suggest is that there may well be the appearance of corroboration,” says Kassin, “but it is false evidence that was corrupted by the confession — not independent at all.” –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a story or scene about a coerced confession and its fallout.

Journaling Prompt: What would it take to get you to admit to something you didn’t do?

Art Prompt: Coercion

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about a coerced confession that was recanted and how the case ended up.

Photo Credit: andrewrennie on Flickr

The diary of a psychopath, day 1 (#15/365)

Psychopaths used more conjunctions like “because,” “since” or “so that,” implying that the crime “had to be done” to obtain a particular goal. They used twice as many words relating to physical needs, such as food, sex or money, while non-psychopaths used more words about social needs, including family, religion and spirituality. Unveiling their predatory nature in their own description, the psychopaths often included details of what they had to eat on the day of their crime.

Past as prologue: Psychopaths were more likely to use the past tense, suggesting a detachment from their crimes, say the researchers. They tended to be less fluent in their speech, using more “ums” and “uhs.” The exact reason for this is not clear, but the researchers speculate that the psychopath is trying harder to make a positive impression, needing to use more mental effort to frame the story. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a monologue by a psychopath explaining their crime using the language cues above.

Journaling Prompt: Write about something that you feel guilty about.

Art Prompt: Criminal

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about the psychopaths that are around us in everyday life.

Photo Credit: Sebastian Anthony on Flickr


We’ve all met the bitter person. Where did that bitterness come from? And how does it affect that person beyond the obvious emotional impact?

Over the last 15 years, [Carsten] Wrosch has investigated how negative emotions, such as regret or sadness, affect people. Most recently, he has focused his attention on the impact of bitterness. With his co-author, Concordia alumna Jesse Renaud, they single out failure as one of the most frequent causes of bitterness. Anger and recrimination are its typical attendants.

Unlike regret, which is about self-blame and a case of “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” acrimony points the finger elsewhere — laying the blame for failure on external causes. “When harboured for a long time,” says Wrosch, “bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease.” -Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Create a character sketch for a chronically bitter person. Include the cause of the bitterness and the physical manifestations of the bitterness.

Journaling Prompt: How have you experienced bitterness in yourself or others?

Art Prompt: Bitter

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about the effect of bitterness on the human body and psyche. Persuade your audience to eliminate bitterness from their lives.



Have you ever had someone go crazy, telling you off, acting like a two year old? Read this great description of a female tantrum:

The whole episode started innocuously enough, but soon escalated into one of those foot-stomping, tear-gushing, guilt-stabbing, man-damning rants which only the female of the species deliver so artfully. -Phil Truman, Legends of Tsalagee

Writing Prompt: Write a scene about a character who goes postal. Write a scene about someone of each gender doing this.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when someone told you off. Describe how that person acted and how you reacted.

Art Prompt: Tantrum

Nonfiction / Speech writing Prompt: Tell a humorous story about an adult throwing a tantrum.

Photo Credit: M. Pratter on Flickr


The old commercial asked, “Is it real, or is it Memorex?” Perhaps a better question would be “Is that a lie, or did you just forget?”

“The fallibility of memory is well established in the scientific literature, but mistaken intuitions about memory persist,” Chabris said. “The extent of these misbeliefs helps explain why so many people assume that politicians who may simply be remembering things wrong must be deliberately lying.”

The new findings also have important implications for proceedings in legal cases, the researchers said.

“Our memories can change even if we don’t realize they have changed,” Simons said. “That means that if a defendant can’t remember something, a jury might assume the person is lying. And misremembering one detail can impugn their credibility for other testimony, when it might just reflect the normal fallibility of memory.” –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a poem or scene where someone has to deal with being accused of lying when they really just forgot.

Journaling Prompt: How do you react when you think someone is lying to you?

Art Prompt: I Forgot

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the malleability of memory and give them strategies for dealing with people who may not remember.

Photo Credit: batabidd on Flickr

lost girl

Everyone has flaws. Most of us have mental flaws: thoughts that niggle at us and hold us back from acting on our dreams. Any good hero must face their flaws and overcome them in order to engage the reader in their journey. Villains, too, have mental flaws. Here is a secret about one way to write these flaws:

An assumed constraint is a belief, based on past experience, that limits current and future experiences… Indicators that an assumed constraint may be holding you hostage are negative internal dialogue, excuses, and blaming statements. -Ken Blanchard, Leading at a Higher Level, Revised and Expanded Edition: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations
Writing Prompt: Make a list of your protagonist’s assumed constraints. How are each of these shown by his actions and dialogue? How are they driving your story?
Journaling Prompt: Write about one of your assumed constraints and how you would like to challenge it.

Art Prompt: Excuses

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about assumed constraints and how they can overcome them.

Photo Credit: Helga Weber on Flickr