Labeling theory
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Labeling Theory. Symbolic Interactionism Primary Deviance Secondary Deviance. Labeling Theory . Passive agents We depend on what other people think about us How do we know who we are? (smart, cute, independent, etc). Symbolic Interactionism. There is no “reality “out there

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Labeling theory l.jpg

Labeling Theory

Symbolic Interactionism

Primary Deviance

Secondary Deviance


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Labeling Theory

  • Passive agents

  • We depend on what other people think about us

  • How do we know who we are? (smart, cute, independent, etc)


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Symbolic Interactionism

  • There is no “reality “out there

  • Different interpretations of reality

  • People within one society can have different perceptions

  • People change their perceptions/attitudes (Two people talking about movie)


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Symbolic Interactionism

  • Who is the most beautiful actress/actor in Hollywood?

  • Who is the most prominent musician of all times?

  • What is the best movie of all times?

  • What is the best restaurant in Pullman?


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Symbolic Interactionism

  • Focus on the subjective aspects of social life, rather than on objective

  • Humans are pragmatic actors who continually must adjust their behavior to the actions of other actors

  • We can adjust to these actions only because we are able to interpret them, i.e., treat the actions and those who perform them as symbolic objects


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Which is the “real presentation” of your vision of a book?

There is no “book”, only various images of it from different points of view. And all the different images are equally “true”


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Alcohol book?


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Let’s apply this logic to a social situation book?

Husband’s point of view




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Different “realities” book?

  • All misunderstandings and problems happen because people have different interpretations of reality

  • Take 5 minutes and think of any examples of different “realities” within your culture?


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Power of labels book?

  • Society creates deviants through a labeling process

  • When we label something/someone we see them differently (a biography of a famous person is often reconstructed)

  • Labeled people might also see themselves differently

  • Resisting a label


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The power of Labels: The Saints and the Roughnecks book?

  • Both groups were “constantly occupied with truancy, drinking, wild parties, vandalism”

  • Not one Saints had been arrested (no arrest , no negative label) (”Headed for success”)

  • Roughnecks had been in a constant trouble with police (“headed for trouble)

  • Why? (social class allowed Saints to be less visible, to be more sophisticated in interactions)


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The power of label and expectations book?

  • The Pygmalion Effect (1960’s)

  • Teacher’s expectations influence children’s performance

  • 20 percents of the students were labeled “blooming” academically

  • A year later the same intelligence test shown that labeled students gained much more points


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Labeling Theory book?

  • It's not the harm that makes an act "criminal", but whether the label is conferred on the act

  • The audience, not the actor, determines when certain behavior becomes defined as crime


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Labeling Theory of Deviance book?

  • All people break rules and engage in deviance at one time or another

  • They even break serious rules for which they could be jailed (vandalism, rape, drinking and driving, tax violations)

  • Yet, only some people get the label of deviant...


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Key Premises of Labeling Theory book?

  • Most people engage in some rule breaking behavior that falls under the category ofprimary deviance

  • Primary Deviance is nonconformity that is temporary, exploratory, trivial or easily concealed... This kind of deviance typically goes undetected.


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Key Premises of Labeling Theory book?

  • However, the situation changes significantly if a person's deviant acts are discovered and made public

  • The person may then be officially labeled as "deviant" (e.g., as nut, weirdo, pervert, criminal, etc )


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Key Premises of Labeling Theory book?

  • This application of a label is a crucial event A label is particularly powerful and "sticky" when applied to a person

  • Labels can become a "master status" - i.e., a status through which all other behavior and characteristics become interpreted

  • Ex-convicts rarely can find a good job or friends


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Secondary Deviance book?

  • Secondary deviance is the process that occurs when a person who has been labeled a deviant accepts that new identity and continues the deviant behavior (Kendall, 1998)

  • Labeling someone as deviant tends to force him to identify himself as deviant and to associate with other deviants, which in turn reinforces his deviance and leads him down the path of a deviant "career"


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Four types of citizens (Becker, 1963) book?

  • The members of society that are rule-abiding and free of labels are described as conforming citizens

  • Those who are labeled without breaking a rule are termed the falsely accused

  • Those citizens that exhibit rule breaking behavior and are labeled deviant are referred to as pure deviants

  • Those that break rules yet avoid labeling are called secret deviants


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Dance musicians (Becker’s study) book?

  • Participant observation study of the lives of Chicago dance musicians to illustrate the social life of a deviant subculture

  • Although dance musicians as a group are law-abiding, their unconventional lifestyles lead them to feel as outsiders

  • Becker (1963) describes how being a dance musician involves a change in attitudes and opinions in order to conform to the subculture


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Dance musicians (Becker’s study) book?

  • The culture of the dance musician is rich in its own language and gestures

  • Many of the dance musicians live a conventional family life during the day and change into their role as musician at night


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Thomas Scheff’s research book?

  • Application of labeling theory is in the area of mental health

  • He describes how people are labeled mentally ill in order to explain certain rule-breaking behavior that society can't categorize

  • People labeled as mentally ill adopt the behaviors of the stereotypical mental patient as portrayed through the mass media


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Thomas Scheff’s research book?

  • Scheff argues that those who express the stereotypical behavior of the mentally ill are rewarded by enterprising psychology professionals

  • Everybody expresses the popular symptoms of mental illness at some point in their life and labels are attached to those without power


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