英语学习杂志 2012-12-31 16:40




Get Flash Player

By Sophie Zhang

张奂瑶 注

Most children are taught by their parents not to talk to strangers when they’re young. But how do we know that it’s really wrong? What can we draw upon to tell us whether or not it is safe or not? Over the past semester, I’ve spoken to numerous strangers with no consequence at all. In fact, most of the times I interact with other strangers are for my own benefit. So how do we tell when it’s truly wrong?

Firstly, we can look at ethics, which, in a sense, deals with questions regarding morality. Our ethics challenge us to decide if something is good or bad, right or wrong, or noble or ignoble. In fact, the question that we have posed today is very much an ethical question. Is talking to strangers wrong? When we decide whether or not talking to strangers is wrong, we draw on our ethics to make such moral judgments for us. We look at the moral consequences of such action, and we draw on our own personal moral standards. For example, omegle is a popular social website in which the user is paired with random strangers to chat with. In fact, the tagline itself, and what the site uses to draw people in, is “Talk to strangers!” Next to each chat box, there is a button that is labeled “Next.” The purpose of the “next” button is simply to allow the user to disconnect with the stranger if they feel that the stranger is somehow unsafe, unsuitable, or perhaps simply boring. The first question that many will ask immediately to their stranger is “ASL?” Or in normal speak, “Age, sex, location?” The question posed here is very much a split-second ethical question. If we examine the three questions on their own, we can see that each question helps us determine whether or not talking to them is right or wrong. Firstly, age—if the stranger is too young or too old, we may decide that it is, in fact, “wrong” or “morally incorrect” to talk to that stranger. Secondly, “sex”—if a woman ends up chatting with a male, she may decide that it is “wrong” to talk to a member of the opposite gender, who could potentially be more dangerous than a female. Lastly, “location”—although we claim to be unbiased towards country of origin, it still plays an important role in our moral judgments. For example, some countries may be “safer”, or “less wrong” than others. On omegle, during a test run , I pretended to be a person from both the United States and Iraq. I was next-ed almost every time when I was the woman from Iraq, and almost never next-ed when I was “from” the United States. So, we can see that our decisions are based heavily on our own personal ethical frameworks .

Next, we have psychology as another area of knowledge. Psychology deals with how we decide to judge strangers, and whether or not they’re worth speaking to. In fact, psychologists at Stanford University conducted an experiment where he showed college students 80 photos of strangers, and then asked them which ones they recognized from among the 40 they’d seen in an earlier session. The more attractive the photo (as rated by another group of students), the more likely it was to be recognized—regardless of whether the face had been seen before or not. In this case, the face’s attractiveness actually changed the students’ perception of the past. This psychological effect is because we associate attractive people with positive qualities, and are less likely to associate them with being “strangers”, or “dangerous.” A lot of this experiment has to do with emotion and perception later.

Lastly, we have history—or what we know from the past. Why do we think that talking to strangers is wrong? We think that it’s wrong because we know from the past that it can be wrong. For example, it has been established that hundreds of thousands children in the past have been kidnapped and murdered by strangers. We know this to be true. Dangerous strangers aren’t just a guess or an assumption—we have witnessed numerous occasions of people being killed or hurt by strangers. We know, based on past experiences and occasions, that this is true. And thus, we often conclude that talking to strangers IS wrong, because they have been proven to be dangerous in the PAST.

But it’s interesting, because all three of these areas of knowledge have the human factor—all of them depend on individual people, and vary from person to person—even history—the interpretation of past facts can similarly vary from each individual to the next. Thus, how much “certainty” can we achieve? Basically, the amount of certainty we can achieve not only depends on the individual, but also the stranger. Because in the interaction, there are two people: “you and the stranger.” But you are both yourself and the stranger, because you’re the stranger to the other person as well.

While we can conclude that some strangers are dangerous, we can also conclude that most strangers are not, and those that are, are an exception to the norm . All of our friends were once strangers to us—so clearly, not all strangers are dangerous. Most of us are able to decide for ourselves whether or not someone is dangerous—using our ethics, psychological instincts, and past experiences, as well as emotion, perception, and logical reasoning. So after this, what is our conclusion? Well, what we conclude is that we can’t know for sure that talking to strangers is wrong. We can’t ever be certain that talking to strangers isn’t dangerous, or unsafe. But in essence, this was the conclusion that we were seeking—because we can’t really know whether or not talking to strangers is wrong, we can’t simply allow ourselves to assume that talking to strangers is wrong, or somehow more dangerous than talking to trusted ones, as our generation has done.

So next time you tell your child to be wary of strangers, maybe you’d better think twice.


1. draw upon(on): 依据……,由……推断。

2. semester: 学期;numerous: 许多的,众多的。

3. ethics: 道德标准;morality: 道德,德行。

4. 道德考验着我们,让我们对事情的好坏,对错,高尚与卑鄙做出判断。ignoble: 卑鄙的,不光彩的。

5. moral standards: 道德标准。

6. Omegle: 由美国人开发的一个热门社交网站,来自不同国家的用户可以在上面与陌生人速配聊天;random: 随机的;任意的。

7. tagline: 口号。

8. “跳过”键的作用是方便用户在隐约感到这个陌生人不安全,不适合或者让人厌烦时,能中断与他/她的对话。

9. split-second: 精准的。

10. unbiased: 不带偏见的,公正的;moral judgment: 道德判断。

11. test run: 初步测试。

12. personal ethical framework: 个人道德准则。

13. Stanford University: 斯坦福大学,坐落于美国加利福尼亚州的斯坦福市,是一所私立学校,被公认为是世界上最好的大学之一;session: (实验的)阶段。

14. attractiveness: (样貌的)吸引力;perception: 认知。

15. 产生这种心理作用是因为我们习惯将漂亮的人与良好的品质联系起来,不太可能由他们联想到 “陌生人”或“危险”等。

16. kidnap: 绑架。

17. assumption: 假定,臆断;occasion: 情况,场合。

18. an exception to the norm: 不合常理的特例。

19. psychological instinct: 心理直觉;logical reasoning: 逻辑推理。

20. be wary of: 提防,小心;think twice: 再三思量,反复考虑。

(来源:英语学习杂志 编辑:丹妮)



















关于我们 | 联系方式 | 招聘信息

Copyright by chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved. None of this material may be used for any commercial or public use. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 版权声明:本网站所刊登的中国日报网英语点津内容,版权属中国日报网所有,未经协议授权,禁止下载使用。 欢迎愿意与本网站合作的单位或个人与我们联系。



Email: languagetips@chinadaily.com.cn