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SOC 2210: Defining Deviance

Wk. 1: 8/28/2012

Christopher Keenan

on 29 August 2013

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Transcript of SOC 2210: Defining Deviance

SOC 2210
Chris Keenan

Defining Deviance
Positivism and Constructionsm
Any Behavior that violates social norms as defined by public consensus.
1) Folkways
2) Mores
3) Laws
are shared
and can be grouped into...
Laws are codified norms
...but what happens when is isn't necessarily a norm to follow a law?
Law Violations
Deviant Acts
Who do we consider deviants?
J.L. Simmons study (1965)
1. Atheists
2. Democrats/Republicans
3. Priests
4. Psychiatrists
5. Christians
6. Perpetual bridge players
7. Physically-challenged
8. Mentally ill
Often times, we don't agree on what deviance really is...
violation of any rule
wider definitions that include disadvantaged groups
Deviance can be positive as well as negative
no label=no deviance
Power plays a main role
Physical/hard science, empiricism
1) Absolutism



Scientific method
Problems with objectivism: inferences in
social science (e.g., UCR, focus on severe crime)
Not "Why do they do it?"
1) Relativism

2) Subjectivism

3) Voluntarism

To norms and standards
sociologists lack consensus about whether a certain person should be treated as a criminal and need to study
why a given act is defined as deviant by one group and not another.
Units of analysis: labelers, the labeling process, itself, and the consequences of the labeling that occurs--
Deviance is in the eye of the beholder
Feeling, meaning,
Qualitative methods
agency, choice, free will
The application of the scientific method to the study of human behavior
There are core characteristics
Deviance is relative, but always is something distinguishable from what society considers normal
Study deviance and deviant behavior
Positivist methodology:
"Deviant behavior is behavior that people so label" (Howard S. Becker, 1963)
These are based on meaning systems that are reflected in both the labelers' and labeled's reactions to this process
Constructionist Methodology:
1) Who is defined as deviant?
2) Who does this defining?

3) Where do these meanings come from?
4) What implications to these definitions have?
2) Explanation through theory
3)Directly observable phenomena
Why do certain rules exist?
-Use your favorite sitcom/tv shows, or movie...is there someone who is 'the deviant'?
-Are they all deviant?
-What makes them deviant?
-Is it funny/sad, good/bad, both...?
Take out a sheet of paper, write your name on it and complete this learning activity to discuss and hand in:
Conflicting definitions:
Has to provoke disapproval or anger
Reading a Journal Article
Puts our mind 'in' the article
Outlines where we are going
Statement of the problem (often in research question form)
Sample or who/what was studied

Why a particular sample was chosen

Describes the sample (Demographic characteristics)

Describes the measures used and how they are operationalizing important concepts
Provides deep theoretical insight into the reasoning and processes expected to matter
Look for connections of the findings with the hypotheses

Don't get bogged down by the means used to get to a finding, instead pay attention to the conceptual meanings (these are usually at the end of each paragraph and at the end of the section)
similar to abstract, they are reconnecting main findings with implications and future research propositions

Ask yourself here:
1) Were the hypotheses supported?,
2) What are the limits, can you critique their logic/reasoning?,
3) Where could you go from here?

This is where the hour glass widens, with more general statements
Techniques for Understanding a Journal Article
1) Read the abstract, and the introduction and discussion sections
Figure out what the dependent (effect) and independent (cause) variables are
2) Once you have a general idea read for detail
3) Get an idea of how ideas are operationalized
4) Don't get bogged down by statistics
5) Do one more read through (skim) to make sure everything makes sense
Qualitative methods aimed at:
"Deviance is both behavior and a label" -Thio
more serious crimes
easy to remain objective because these serious crimes are rarely committed/experienced by these researchers
Hard to see agency/free will perspective
less serious crimes-less public consensus-voluntary decisions to behave deviant
more up for debate, dependent on many interactive factors
more likely to see eye-to-eye with deviants (e.g., Becker)
Final point:
Deviance is any behavior considered deviant by public consensus but...
deviance exists on a continuum
Theoretical Background
Who's 'doing' deviance vs. who's deciding who is deviant

May encompass explanations beyond those social (e.g., psychological and biological).
Complexity-Multiple Perspectives
What the research expects to happen
->Focus on the main argument for why the researcher forms their hypotheses
What's so important about this problem (contributions to be offered)
This section is the first half of the typical hour glass-"Research Reporting as Story Telling"
Backs up the hypotheses and explains, briefly, the academic history of the topic in a "story"
Think of the entire
like an hour glass
Where do we get these categories from?
How do we assign “wrong” to a category ?
How do we decide who gets put into categories?
How does one who assigned to a ‘bad category’ get stigmatized?
How do these rules work?
What are their consequences?
What could be a potential problem with this empathetic perspective?
How can we prevent bias in our research if we are ‘trying’ to understand where the deviant is coming from?
higher consensus
lower consensus
Those labeled deviant are not
and thus, should be
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