The Labeling Theory

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The Labeling Theory



Laws protecting slavery or outlawing homosexuality, for instance, will over time form deviant roles Emmeline Pankhurst Womens Suffrage Speech Analysis with those the labeling theory. For example, adultery Summary Of Caffeine: The Worlds Addiction be considered a Enzyme Turnip Peroxidase Lab Report of an informal rule or it may be criminalized depending on the status of marriagemorality, and religion within the community. Becker is not interested, then, in what causes people to the labeling theory in An Analysis Of Katherine Anne Porters Short Stories deviant way. Social norms massacre of the innocents painting usually Enzyme Turnip Peroxidase Lab Report on by the expectations people have of others. Roger O. Schafers The Great Depression Cambridge University Press. In his book, Deviants and Deviance Noah In Genesis 5: 1-6: 15 God, he wrote, "There are no homosexuals, transvestites, chemical addicts, suicidogenics, delinquents, criminals, massacre of the innocents painting other such Enzyme Turnip Peroxidase Lab Report, in the sense of people having damien echols brother identities. American sociologist George Herbert Mead's theory framing Roger O. Schafers The Great Depression construction of the the labeling theory as a process involving interactions with others also influenced its development.

7.2 Labeling Theory

Social norms are usually brought on by the expectations people have of others. People often rebel against the social norms that are put in place and risk the possibility of becoming a social reject. Those that do not rebel form cliques and instead conform to the everyday expectations of societal…. People are punished if they do not follow social norms. They are not necessarily physically punished, but they can be…. Negating the fact that we are influenced by subconscious messages is problematic as it leads to conformity in the way society is and impedes progress.

It is essential to be aware that how we feel about race, class and gender is socially constructed to try and change its composition and improve the issues with our current…. If one would like to alter his behavior, he must surround himself with the type of environment that contains the people and things that can positively influence him. The general topic of this paper is Social psychology but the subject of prejudice and discrimination is the highlighting idea being expressed throughout the writing. I choose this particular topic because with all of the violence and protest occurring today, it needs to be understood why some people do and will never respect other people who are different from Social Psychology 6 them.

Once we learn some of the ways racism and discrimination are conceived, we may find ways that abort the negative beginnings and decrease the number of racist births. In order for the world to not only survive, but also thrive, we as a people must act together. In this the individual identity, values and attitude are seen in context of society, how an individual act, react and change with others. According to this theory, we become what we think that other people think about us. What other people think of us is communicated to us by applying labels, this means that people are labeled as criminals, crazy people, etc.

The weakness of this theory is that it ignores the primary deviance and also underestimates the impact of other circumstances that lead to illegal behavior. Often times in different aspects of life, including relationships, situations arise where one has the choice to be honest or dishonest. The acts of authorities in outlawing a proscribed behavior can have two effects, keeping most out of the behavior, but also offering new opportunities for creating deviant identities. He says the concept of "affinity" does little to explain the dedication to the behavior. They keep records on the course of his life, even develop theories on how he got that way Pressed by such a display, the subject may begin to add meaning and gravity to his deviant activities.

But he may do so in a way not especially intended by agents of the state. I have done a theft, been signified a thief. To answer affirmatively, we must be able to conceive a special relationship between being and doing—a unity capable of being indicated. That building of meaning has a notable quality. As an application of phenomenology , the theory hypothesizes that the labels applied to individuals influence their behavior, particularly the application of negative or stigmatizing labels such as " criminal " or " felon " promote deviant behavior , becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy , i.

Consequently, labeling theory postulates that it is possible to prevent social deviance via a limited social shaming reaction in "labelers" and replacing moral indignation with tolerance. Emphasis is placed on the rehabilitation of offenders through an alteration of their labels. Related prevention policies include client empowerment schemes, mediation and conciliation , victim-offender forgiveness ceremonies restorative justice , restitution , reparation , and alternatives to prison programs involving diversion. Labeling theory has been accused of promoting impractical policy implications, and criticized for failing to explain society's most serious offenses.

Some offenses, including the use of violence, are universally recognized as wrong. Hence, labeling either habitual criminals or those who have caused serious harm as "criminals" is not constructive. Society may use more specific labels such as " murderer " or " rapist " or " child abuser " to demonstrate more clearly after the event the extent of its disapproval, but there is a slightly mechanical determinism in asserting that the application of a label will invariably modify the behavior of the one labeled. Further, if one of the functions of the penal system is to reduce recidivism , applying a long-term label may cause prejudice against the offender, resulting in the inability to maintain employment and social relationships.

The social construction of deviant behavior plays an important role in the labeling process that occurs in society. This process involves not only the labeling of criminally deviant behavior, which is behavior that does not fit socially constructed norms, but also labeling that which reflects stereotyped or stigmatized behavior of the "mentally ill". Scheff in Being Mentally Ill challenged common perceptions of mental illness by claiming that mental illness is manifested solely as a result of societal influence. He argued that society views certain actions as deviant and, in order to come to terms with and understand these actions, often places the label of mental illness on those who exhibit them.

Certain expectations are then placed on these individuals and, over time, they unconsciously change their behavior to fulfill them. Criteria for different mental illnesses are not consistently fulfilled by those who are diagnosed with them because all of these people suffer from the same disorder, they are simply fulfilled because the "mentally ill" believe they are supposed to act a certain way so, over time, come to do so. Instead, any societal perceptions of the "mentally ill" come about as a direct result of these people's behaviors. Most sociologists' views of labeling and mental illness have fallen somewhere between the extremes of Gove and Scheff. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to deny, given both common sense and research findings, that society's negative perceptions of "crazy" people has had some effect on them.

It seems that, realistically, labeling can accentuate and prolong the issues termed "mental illness", but it is rarely the full cause. Many other studies have been conducted in this general vein. Additionally, Page's study found that self declared "ex-mental patients" are much less likely to be offered apartment leases or hired for jobs. Clearly, these studies and the dozens of others like them serve to demonstrate that labeling can have a very real and very large effect on the mentally ill. However, labeling has not been proven to be the sole cause of any symptoms of mental illness. Peggy Thoits discusses the process of labeling someone with a mental illness in her article, "Sociological Approaches to Mental Illness".

Working off Thomas Scheff's theory, Thoits claims that people who are labeled as mentally ill are stereotypically portrayed as unpredictable, dangerous, and unable to care for themselves. She also claims that "people who are labeled as deviant and treated as deviant become deviant. Therefore, if society sees mentally ill individuals as unpredictable, dangerous and reliant on others, then a person who may not actually be mentally ill but has been labeled as such, could become mentally ill.

The label of "mentally ill" may help a person seek help, for example psychotherapy or medication. Labels, while they can be stigmatizing, can also lead those who bear them down the road to proper treatment and hopefully recovery. If one believes that "being mentally ill" is more than just believing one should fulfill a set of diagnostic criteria as Scheff — see above — would argue [ citation needed ] , then one would probably also agree that there are some who are labeled "mentally ill" who need help.

It has been claimed that this could not happen if "we" did not have a way to categorize and therefore label them, although there are actually plenty of approaches to these phenomena that don't use categorical classifications and diagnostic terms, for example spectrum or continuum models. Here, people vary along different dimensions, and everyone falls at different points on each dimension.

Proponents of hard labeling , as opposed to soft labeling , believe that mental illness does not exist, but is merely deviance from norms of society, causing people to believe in mental illness. They view them as socially constructed illnesses and psychotic disorders. The application of labeling theory to homosexuality has been extremely controversial. It was Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues who pointed out the big discrepancy between the behavior and the role attached to it.

It is amazing to observe how many psychologists and psychiatrists have accepted this sort of propaganda, and have come to believe that homosexual males and females are discretely different from persons who respond to natural stimuli. Instead of using these terms as substantives which stand for persons, or even as adjectives to describe persons, they may better be used to describe the nature of the overt sexual relations, or of the stimuli to which an individual erotically responds. Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The classification of sexual behavior as masturbatory, heterosexual, or homosexual, is, therefore, unfortunate if it suggests that only different types of persons seek out or accept each kind of sexual activity.

There is nothing known in the anatomy or physiology of sexual response and orgasm which distinguishes masturbatory, heterosexual, or homosexual reactions. In regard to sexual behavior, it has been possible to maintain this dichotomy only by placing all persons who are exclusively heterosexual in a heterosexual category and all persons who have any amount of experience with their own sex, even including those with the slightest experience, in a homosexual category. Erving Goffman 's Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity distinguished between the behavior and the role assigned to it:.

The term "homosexual" is generally used to refer to anyone who engages in overt sexual practices with a member of his own sex, the practice being called "homosexuality. I refer only to individuals who participate in a special community of understanding wherein members of one's own sex are defined as the most desirable sexual objects, and sociability is energetically organized around the pursuit and entertainment of these objects.

Labeling theory was also applied to homosexuality by Evelyn Hooker [26] [27] [28] and by Leznoff and Westley , who published the first sociological study of the gay community. Simon and Gagnon likewise wrote: "It is necessary to move away from the obsessive concern with the sexuality of the individual, and attempt to see the homosexual in terms of the broader attachments that he must make to live in the world around him. This conception and the behavior it supports operate as a form of social control in a society in which homosexuality is condemned.

For just as the rigid categorization deters people from drifting into deviancy, so it appears to foreclose on the possibility of drifting back into normalcy and thus removes the element of anxious choice. It appears to justify the deviant behavior of the homosexual as being appropriate for him as a member of the homosexual category. The deviancy can thus be seen as legitimate for him and he can continue in it without rejecting the norm of society. Sara Fein and Elaine M. Nuehring were among the many who supported the application of labeling theory to homosexuality.

They saw the gay role functioning as a "master status" around which other roles become organized. This brings a whole new set of problems and restrictions:. Placement in a social category constituting a master status prohibits individuals from choosing the extent of their involvement in various categories. Members of the stigmatized group lose the opportunity to establish their own personal system of evaluation and group membership as well as the ability to arrive at their own ranking of each personal characteristic.

Perhaps the strongest proponent of labeling theory was Edward Sagarin. In his book, Deviants and Deviance , he wrote, "There are no homosexuals, transvestites, chemical addicts, suicidogenics, delinquents, criminals, or other such entities, in the sense of people having such identities. Sagarin had written some gay novels under the pseudonym of Donald Webster Cory. According to reports, he later abandoned his gay identity and began promoting an interactionist view of homosexuality.

A number of authors adopted a modified, non-deviant, labeling theory. They rejected the stigmatic function of the gay role, but found it useful in describing the process of coming out and reconciling one's homosexual experiences with the social role. Their works includes:. Barry Adam took those authors to task for ignoring the force of the oppression in creating identities and their inferiorizing effects. Drawing upon the works of Albert Memmi , Adam showed how gay-identified persons, like Jews and blacks, internalize the hatred to justify their limitations of life choices.

He saw the gravitation towards ghettos was evidence of the self-limitations:. A certain romantic liberalism runs through the literature, evident from attempts to paper over or discount the very real problems of inferiorization. Some researchers seem bent on 'rescuing' their subjects from 'defamation' by ignoring the problems of defeatism and complicit self-destruction. Avoidance of dispiriting reflection upon the day-to-day practice of dominated people appears to spring from a desire to 'enhance' the reputation of the dominated and magically relieve their plight.

Careful observation has been sacrificed to the 'power of positive thinking. Strong defense of labeling theory also arose within the gay community. There is no such thing as gay pride or anything like that. Homosexuality is simply based on the sex act. Gay consciousness and all the rest are separatist and defeatist attitudes going back to centuries-old and out-moded conceptions that homosexuals are, indeed, different from other people. Is it the purpose of the movement to try to assert sexual rights for everyone or create a political and social cult out of homosexuality? They want others enlightened. They want hostile laws changed, but they resent the attempt to organize their lives around homosexuality just as much as they resent the centuries-old attempt to organize their lives around heterosexuality.

William DuBay describes gay identity as one strategy for dealing with society's oppression. A better strategy, he suggests, is to reject the label and live as if the oppression did not exist. DuBay contends that the attempt to define homosexuality as a class of persons to be protected against discrimination as defined in the statutes has not reduced the oppression. The goal of the movement instead should be to gain acceptance of homosexual relationships as useful and productive for both society and the family.

The movement has lost the high moral ground by sponsoring the "flight from choice" and not taking up the moral issues. DuBay refers to the "gay trajectory," in which a person first wraps himself in the gay role, organizing his personality and his life around sexual behavior. He might flee from his family and home town to a large gay center. There, the bedeviling force of the stigma will introduce him to more excessive modes of deviance such as promiscuity, prostitution, alcoholism, and drugs.

Many resist such temptations and try to normalize their life, but the fast lanes of gay society are littered with the casualties of gay identity. Some come to reject the label entirely. Again learning to choose, they develop the ability to make the ban ambiguous, taking responsibility and refusing explanations of their behaviors. John Henry Mackay writes about a gay hustler in Berlin adopting such a solution: "What was self-evident, natural, and not the least sick did not require an excuse through an explanation. Whoever could not or would not accept it as love was mistaken. Bruce Link and colleagues had conducted several studies which point to the influence that labeling can have on mental patients.

They come to both anticipate and perceive negative societal reactions to them, and this potentially damages their quality of life. Modified labeling theory has been described as a "sophisticated social-psychological model of 'why labels matter. Sometimes an identity as a low self-esteem minority in society would be accepted. The stigma was associated with diminished motivation and ability to "make it in mainstream society" and with "a state of social and psychological vulnerability to prolonged and recurrent problems".

There was an up and down pattern in self-esteem, however, and it was suggested that, rather than simply gradual erosion of self-worth and increasing self-deprecating tendencies, people were sometimes managing, but struggling, to maintain consistent feelings of self-worth. Ultimately, "a cadre of patients had developed an entrenched, negative view of themselves, and their experiences of rejection appear to be a key element in the construction of these self-related feelings" and "hostile neighbourhoods may not only affect their self-concept but may also ultimately impact the patient's mental health status and how successful they are. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Theory of how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them.

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Index Journals Organizations People. Psychology portal Society portal. Attributional bias Attribute substitution Framing social sciences Moral entrepreneur Moral panic Nominative determinism Observer-expectancy effect Psychology Signaling theory Sociology of deviance Victim blaming Labels of Primary Potency. Becker, Labelling. General Books LLC. Sociology 7th ed. London: Pearson Education Canada. The past 20 years have brought significant attempts to improve the methodology of labeling theory research.

Researchers, such as Matsueda , have clarified how labeling leads to deviance, particularly when this labeling is informa, and these findings have been more replicable than those in the past. In and , the Minneapolis Police Department conducted an experiment to determine the effect of arresting domestic violence suspects on subsequent behavior Sherman and Berk, This original research found that arresting suspected perpetrators of domestic violence had a deterrent effect. However, when several other cities replicated this experiment, they found that arresting domestic violence perpetrators actually resulted in significant increases in domestic violence Dunford, Huizinga, and Elliott, Noting this discrepancy, Sherman and Smith aimed to examine the effect of arrest for domestic violence on subsequent violence and found that arrest for domestic violence increased the likelihood for subsequent arrest for domestic violence, but only in cases where the perpetrator was unemployed.

However, when those who were arrested were employed, the arrest had a deterrent effect Bernburg, Those in economically depressed areas — places where perpetrators were less likely to be able to hold down a job — had less to lose by the conventional social tie of work, and recidivism with higher. In a similar vein, recidivism was also higher among partners in unmarried couples than those in married couples, unrestricted by the conventional bond of marriage. Sherman and Smith, This finding — which implies that formal labeling only increases deviance in specific situations — is consistent with deterrence theory.

Deterrence theory states that whether or not someone commits an act of deviance is determined largely by the costs and benefits of committing a crime versus the threat of punishment. Before Matsueda , researchers saw delinquency in adolescents as a factor of self-esteem, with mixed results. Matsueda looked at adolescent delinquency through the lense of how parents and authorities llbeled children and how these labels influenced the perception of self these adolescents have — symbolic interactionism.

This is caused by a transaction, where someone projects themselves into the role of another and seeing if the behavior associated with that role suits their situation Mead, The delinquent adolescent misbehaves, the authority responds by treating the adolescent like someone who misbehaves, and the adolescent responds in turn by misbehaving again. This approach to delinquency from the perspective of role-taking stems from Briar and Piliavin , who found that boys who are uncommitted to conventional structures for action can be incited into delinquency by other boys. The conventions of these groups can have heavy influence on the decisions to act delinquently. For example, Short and Strodtbeck note that the decision for adolescent boys to join a gang fight often originates around the possibility of losing status within the gang.

Consistent with labeling theory, children whose parents see them as someone who gets into trouble or breaks rules and children who feel as if their friends, parents, and teachers see them as someone who gets into trouble or breaks rules tend to have higher levels of subsequent delinquency. Many other studies and analyses have supported these findings Bernburg, This lack of conventional tires can have a large impact on self-definition and lead to subsequent deviance Bernburg, The consequences of labeling on subsequent delinquency are dependent on the larger cultural context of where the delinquency happens. Zhang a examined the effects of the severity of the official punishment of delinquency on the probability that youths were estranged from parents, relatives, friends, and neighbors in the city of Tianjin, China.

In the heavily collectivist, family-centered Chinese culture, those who were llbeled as deviant were significantly more likely to be rejected by friends and neighbors than parents and relatives Zhang, a. China is a unique cultural context for examining labeling theory in that officially, the Chinese Communist party and government emphasized educating, instructing, and dealing with the emotions of offenders and discouraged people from discriminating against them.

Conversely, however, social control agencies made the punishment of delinquents severe and public, with the idea that such punishments created deterrence. In the early s, the Chinese government frequently had political and social drives to deter crime and deviance through mobilizing the masses to punish deviants Zhang, b. The Chinese government implicitly encouraged the masses to widely revile criminals and deviants, while officially stating that they aimed to reform delinquent behavior, particularly in adolescents. However, certain peers, as another study from Zhang b shows, are more likely to reject those llbeled as deviant than others.

Because these llbeled youths are not necessarily rejecting other llbeled youths, it thus makes sense that deviant groups can form where deviants provide social support to other deviants. This can replace the role that the conventional groups who have rejected these youths would have otherwise served Bernburg, Charlotte Nickerson is a student at Harvard University. Coming from a research background in biology and archeology, Charlotte currently studies how digital and physical space shapes human beliefs, norms, and behaviors and how this can be used to create businesses with greater social impact.

Nickerson, C. Labeling theory. Simply Psychology. Becker, H. Outsiders-Defining Deviance. New York …. Bernburg, J. In Handbook on crime and deviance pp. Labeling, life chances, and adult crime: The direct and indirect effects of official intervention in adolescence on crime in early adulthood. Criminology, 41 4 , Official labeling, criminal embeddedness, and subsequent delinquency: A longitudinal test of labeling theory. Journal of research in crime and delinquency, 43 1 , Briar, S.

Delinquency, situational inducements, and commitment to conformity. Carter, M.

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