New project places personal stories at center of democracy research

November 23, 2022

In a time of question and doubt for many Americans about the future of democracy in the U.S., a group of units at Arizona State University have partnered to create the Defending Democracy project.

Defending Democracy, created by the Center for the Study of Religion and ConflictThe Melikian Center: Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, the Narrative Storytelling Initiative and the Center for Work and Democracy, asks Americans to share their personal experiences with attacks on and threats to democracy in their community. Red-and-white-striped fabric frames a view of blurred blue-and-white lights. Download Full Image

The project is an effort to spotlight the kinds of attacks Americans have experienced and witnessed and the variety of ways Americans have pushed back against anti-democratic forces in their everyday lives. The project is accepting submissions of 150–400 words or 1–2-minute videos at

“We launched Defending Democracy with a sense of urgency and hope that this public outreach can shed new insights on both specific actions and underlying motives,” says Steven Beschloss, director of the Narrative Storytelling Initiative at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. “The Narrative Storytelling Initiative is committed to transdisciplinary projects that draw on academic expertise and meaningful public input, and that positively address relevant societal challenges.”

The Defending Democracy team recognizes the need to hear the stories of everyday Americans when attempting to study and understand the current state of American democracy. This project is an opportunity for scholars at ASU and beyond to study the thoughts and experiences of real Americans alongside the cultural, historical and political contexts that usually drive academic work in this area. 

“This new project provides an opportunity for everyday citizens — rather than pundits and politicians — to say in their own words what democracy means to them and to register how they see it being threatened,” says John Carlson, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and associate professor of religious studies.

The aim of the Defending Democracy project is to capture and understand the scale and variety of anti-democratic encounters, and to create hope for democracy’s future by amplifying the voices of those individuals seeking to sustain democracy within their communities. 

“In a democracy, everyone has a voice and a right to participate,” Carlson says. “This platform provides a way for Americans — Arizonans especially — to share stories, incidents or encounters in which there has been an effort to suppress, undermine or attack these democratic rights and responsibilities. We want to hear how Americans are actually experiencing democracy — and threats to it — as they go about their daily lives.”

The Defending Democracy team anticipates that these personal stories or accounts will be a source of vital information about the current state of American democracy from the very specific perspective of lived experience. 

“We’re eager to hear from our fellow citizens and to hear what they are experiencing in their lives,” Carlson says. “Depending on what we learn, we also hope to offer some constructive suggestions and proposals for improving the health of our democratic body politic.”

The submitted essays and videos will be used to guide academics who are researching and writing about the current reality and future of democracy; a multidisciplinary collection of ASU scholars and thinkers who are joining forces to reflect on this particular time in American history and the motivating narratives influencing the public’s understanding of and response to democracy. The Defending Democracy team also hopes to share the insights gained from the submissions through a series of essays, but they are also open to other, more innovative uses for the submissions as well.

“While we can imagine sharing the results in expected ways in written form or as videos, we are also considering the possibility of sharing the collection in audio, as a tapestry of voices and experiences, or even working with actors to help bring the submissions to life,” Beschloss says. “We also intend to partner with outside media organizations to share and amplify what we learn.” 

Although the content and quantity of the submissions will ultimately determine the outcome of the project, the team is optimistic about the possibilities early on. They anticipate that the project will be a catalyst for important conversations about American democracy.

“We think the issues surrounding threats to democracy are not only serious, they represent an existential danger to the country,” Beschloss says. “We hope the project will encourage thoughtful discourse, within ASU and beyond.”

Communications Coordinator, Narrative Storytelling Initiative

Study shows violating intentions related to drinking predicts future alcohol problems in young adults

November 23, 2022

Drinking to excess is bad for your health and was recently identified as a leading cause of death among Americans aged 20 to 49 years.

Research from Arizona State University has shown that drinking more than planned is a stronger predictor of future drinking problems than actual consumption or impulsive personality traits in young adults. The study was published in Addictive Behaviors.  An empty bar with three green barstools in front of it and shelves full of liquor behind it. Research from the ASU Department of Psychology has shown that drinking more than planned is a stronger predictor of future drinking problems than actual consumption or impulsive personality traits. Photo by Rachel Claire/Pexels Download Full Image

“Intending to have only a few drinks or to go out for a certain amount of time and violating those intentions predicted long-term, alcohol-related problems and consequences more than alcohol use itself,” said Julie A. Patock-Peckham, research assistant professor in the ASU Department of Psychology.

Setting an intention to drink a limited amount or to drink for only a specific amount of time and then violating that goal is called impaired control over drinking by researchers who study addiction. 

The study included 448 young adults aged 21 to 25 years who, after initial testing, underwent follow-ups six and 12 months later. Because impaired control over drinking could be related to how impulsive people are, the researchers measured general impulsiveness in addition to how much alcohol the participants consumed at each time point. 

The six- and 12-month follow-up sessions let the researchers test whether impulsive personality traits or drinking more than intended were associated with problem drinking in the future.  

Impulsivity traits predicted drinking behaviors, but the strongest indicator of future drinking problems was impaired control — intending to drink a certain amount and then exceeding that intention.

“It could be that impaired control over drinking is a sign that someone already has a problem, but the prospective nature of this study let us show that impaired control longitudinally predicted drinking problems and was distinct from trait impulsivity,” said William Corbin, professor of psychology at ASU. “Impaired control over drinking is not a byproduct of impulsivity. It is a marker that drinking problems could escalate in the future and is an important early intervention target.”

This work was funded by the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Burton Family Foundation.

Science writer, Psychology Department