Currently viewing the tag: "society"


Thermal imaging technology might one day be to identify drunks before they become a nuisance in bars, airports or other public spaces. Georgia Koukiou and Vassilis Anastassopoulos of the Electronics Laboratory, at University of Patras, Greece, are developing software that can objectively determine whether a person has consumed an excessive amount of alcohol based solely on the relative temperature of different parts of the person’s face. –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write about a future where people are routinely scanned for blood alcohol level.

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel that society should handle public drunkenness?

Art Prompt: Are you drunk?

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about the line between civil liberties and the public right to safety.

Photo Credit: paukrus on Flickr

the train will be leaving soon (annoyed gentleman next door)

When Emily Daggett Weiss boarded the Twentieth Century Limited in the spring of 1913, bound for a brief sojourn in the West, one or two old biddies gave her the hairy eye. Woman traveling alone. No better than she should be, as her mother used to say about young women of low moral standards. Worse than the biddies, a traveling salesman winked at her. -Irene Fleming, The Brink of Fame

Fiction Writing Prompt: Use the first line of the week as the starting point or inspiration for a scene, story, poem, or haiku.

Journaling Prompt: Imagine traveling a century back in time. What would be the most difficult thing for you to get used to?

Art Prompt: 1913

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about how women’s place in society has changed in the last century.

Photo Credit: phlubdr on Flickr


“The control of fire would have been a major turning point in human evolution,” says anthropologist Michael Chazan, co-director of the project and director of University of Toronto’s Archaeology Center. “The impact of cooking food is well documented, but the impact of control over fire would have touched all elements of human society. Socializing around a camp fire might actually be an essential aspect of what makes us human.” -Daily Galaxy

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story, scene, or poem about socialization around a camp fire.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a memory involving a camp fire.

Art Prompt: Camp Fire

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about the importance of socialization and the modern equivalent of the camp fire.

Photo Credit: Dawn Huczek on Flickr

“You are standing behind a very large stranger on a footbridge above the tracks. The only way to save the five people is to heave the stranger over. He will fall to a certain death. But his considerable girth will block the trolley, saving five lives. Should you push him?”

According to Dutton (citing the Harvard psychologist Joshua Greene, who observed psychopaths and normal people dealing with this dilemma), the variation of the trolley problem involves a “personal moral dilemma” that “hammers on the door of the brain’s emotion center, known as the amygdala.” While this dilemma makes normal people “circumspect and jittery,” and 90 percent refuse to push the stranger off the bridge, Dutton writes that psychopaths, “without batting an eye, are perfectly happy to chuck the fat guy over the side, if that’s how the cookie crumbles.” …

The lesson here is not a completely dark one. “I think every society needs particular individuals to do its dirty work for it,” Dutton quotes the evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar as saying. We need doctors who won’t pass out at the sight of blood, for instance. We also need leaders who aren’t afraid to make tough decisions: “If you know where the buttons are and don’t feel the heat when you push them, then chances are you’re going to hit the jackpot,” Dutton writes. Let’s return to the trolley problem again. If utilitarianism is the goal — creating the greatest happiness for the greatest number — there is bound to be some ruthless psychopathy involved in achieving it. “Some group or cause,” Dutton writes, “has to bite the bullet for the greater good.” –Daniel Honan

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story where a psychopath has to be the agent of the good.

Journaling Prompt: How do you make difficult choices?

Art Prompt: Dirty Work

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about the psychology of difficult decisions.

Photo Credit: Earl-Wilkerson on Flickr

be thankful

Consider the custom, in American society, of constantly saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ To do so is often treated as basic morality: we are constantly chiding children for forgetting to do it, just as the moral guardians of our society – teachers and ministers, for instance – do to everybody else. We often assume that the habit is universal, but… it is not. Like so many of our everyday courtesies, it is a kind of democratization of what was once a habit of feudal deference: the insistence on treating absolutely everyone the way that one used only to have to treat a lord or similar hierarchical superior…

All of this is a relatively recent innovation. The habit of always saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ first began to take hold during the commercial revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – among those very middle classes who were largely responsible for it. It is the language of bureaus, shops, and offices, and over the course of the last five hundred years it has spread across the world along with them. It is also merely one token of a much larger philosophy, a set of assumptions of what humans are and what they owe one another, that have by now become so deeply ingrained that we cannot see them. -David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story set in a society where no one says “please” or “thank you.”

Journaling Prompt: What are you grateful for today? To whom do you need to express your gratitude?

Art Prompt: Please and Thank You

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Discuss courtesy and its role in society.

Photo Credit: rustiqueart on Flickr

Child in Wonder

On my honor, I will do my best To confound the expectations of society, To observe the super-consciousness in all its workings, To seek independence in body, in intellect, and in spirit. We followed the Wonder Scout Law, too, which we recited at every meeting. A Wonder Scout is curious, adventurous, strong, observant, resourceful, brave, skeptical, thoughtful, and aware. -Will Ludwigsen, We Were Wonder Scouts, Asimov’s Science Fiction Aug 2011

Writing Prompt: Write a story about a Wonder Scout.

Journaling Prompt: How do you maintain your sense of wonder?

Art Prompt: Wonder Scout

Photo Credit: toprobroy on Flickr

Shafia safely handing over the 'pot' to the member

Why are some places more prone to bribery and corruption than others? Part of the answer seems to be the level of collective feeling in a society, according to research by Pankaj Aggarwal, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) professor of marketing in the Department of Management, and Nina Mazar, University of Toronto professor of marketing.

Aggarwal and Mazar discovered that people in more collectivist cultures — in which individuals see themselves as interdependent and as part of a larger society — are more likely to offer bribes than people from more individualistic cultures. Their work suggests that people in collectivist societies may feel less individually responsible for their actions, and therefore less guilty about offering a bribe…

Adjusted for wealth, the degree of collectivism in a country predicted just how likely a business person was to offer a bribe to a business partner.

It’s not that those business people saw bribes as acceptable — other surveys have shown that bribery is widely seen as morally repugnant across cultures… –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Create a situation in which your character must use bribery to achieve his or her goal.

Journaling Prompt: Have you ever resorted to bribery? If not money, perhaps you’ve used chocolate? Hmmm?

Art Prompt: Bribery
Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about how customs surrounding bribery affect culture.

Photo Credit: imtfi on Flickr



Any excuse for a party, that’s my motto! Even if it’s just a party in my head. Nice to find someone who agrees with me. Even better that he put it in print, don’t you think?

Celebration is a mental experience with both conscious and unconscious dimensions. At a conscious level, celebration offers us a way – possibly the only way we know – to hold the moment, to engage in it fully and experience it fully, to experience ourselves and others in that context and feel grounded in the scheme of life and history. At an unconscious level, the celebrated moment imprints itself on us, adding to the hidden store of impressions that shape our thinking and color our view throughout life. In celebration we enrich our lives with the experience of our shared history as well as the shared moment. We may share a moment with others or with the memory of others, with God or simply with our own self. To do this in an ongoing way brings many of these enriched memories together to add depth of feeling and meaning to our daily lives. Our capacity to celebrate enables us to experience the deeper dimensions of any moment – at work, in love, or at play – as part of a human experience greater than ourselves. -Harvey L. Rich, In the Moment: Celebrating the Everyday

Writing Prompt: Create a celebration for your world or character.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your favorite celebration ever. What made it so meaningful to you?

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about the significance of celebrations in your family or your culture.

Art Prompt: Celebration

Photo Credit: williamcho on Flickr


Life is about relationships. What happens when people are rejected and locked out of relationship with others?

…belonging to a group was probably helpful to our ancestors. We have weak claws, little fur, and long childhoods; living in a group helped early humans survive harsh environments. Because of that, being part of a group still helps people feel safe and protected, even when walls and clothing have made it easier for one man to be an island entire of himself.

But acceptance has an evil twin: rejection. Being rejected is bad for your health… They don’t sleep well, their immune systems sputter, and they even tend to die sooner than people who are surrounded by others who care about them.

Being excluded is also associated with poor mental health, and exclusion and mental health problems can join together in a destructive loop. People with depression may face exclusion more often because of the symptoms of their disorder — and being rejected makes them more depressed… People with social anxiety navigate their world constantly worried about being socially rejected. A feeling of exclusion can also contribute to suicide.

Exclusion isn’t just a problem for the person who suffers it, either; it can disrupt society at large… People who have been excluded often lash out against others. In experiments, they give people much more hot sauce than they can stand, blast strangers with intense noise, and give destructive evaluations of prospective job candidates. Rejection can even contribute to violence. An analysis of 15 school shooters found that all but two had been socially rejected. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write about a character dealing with rejection.

Journaling Prompt: When have you felt rejected? How did you act? How did it affect you?

Art Prompt: Rejection

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about the problem of exclusion and rejection in our culture.

Photo Credit: Annie Wu on Flickr


Spoiler alerts abound on the Internet, but do spoilers really spoil the enjoyment?

“Spoilers don’t spoil stories. Contrary to popular wisdom, they actually seem to enhance enjoyment.

“Even ironic-twist and mystery stories — which you’d be forgiven for assuming absolutely depend on suspense or surprise for success — aren’t spoiled by spoilers, according to a study by Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt of UC San Diego’s psychology department, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science…

“Why? The answers go beyond the scope of the study, but one possibility is perhaps the simplest one: that plot is overrated.

“‘Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing,’ said Christenfeld, a UC San Diego professor of social psychology…

“It’s also possible that it’s “easier” to read a spoiled story. Other psychological studies have shown that people have an aesthetic preference for objects that are perceptually easy to process.

“‘So it could be,’ said Leavitt, a psychology doctoral student at UC San Diego, ‘that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier — you’re more comfortable processing the information — and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.’

“Stories are a universal element of human culture, the backbone of the billion-dollar entertainment industry, and the medium through which religion and societal values are transmitted,” the researchers write. In other words, narratives are incredibly important. But their success doesn’t seem to hinge on simple suspense. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: How important is surprise to your story? Do you let your readers in on the surprise? Do you use foreshadowing as a spoiler? Do you agree or disagree with this study? Will it change how you structure your stories?

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel about spoilers?

Art Prompt: Spoiler alert

Photo Credit: G. Turner on Flickr