Deviance in Social Psychology

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Deviance in Social Psychology

Deviance is a major issue needing further exploration in social psychology in reference to its relationship to symbolic interaction and shared meaning. Deviance is defined as behavior that violates the rules of a group- the shared generalized other. Since social organizations create shared meaning of appropriate conduct by originating norms, behavior that does not conform to social expectations is relative and may differ amongst groups. According to sociologist, David Emile Durkheim, deviance is a vital component of a strong civilization. It provides the non-deviants an awareness of cohesion by repeatedly emphasizing the significance of the rule being violated. By penalizing deviants, the group conveys shared indignation and reestablishes its obligation to the rules. Durkheim asserts the actual purpose of punishment is not the deterrence of potential crimes, but to reassert the significance of the rule being violated. Defining certain actions as law-breaking establishes the boundaries for what is socially acceptable behavior; thus, deviance is not only a consequence of social structure but necessary for it. The symbolic interaction perspective is based on how humans develop a complex set of symbols to give meaning to the world; therefore, understanding the symbols is important in understanding human behavior. Increased research should be explored in regards to deviance as it relates to social psychology with emphasis on shared meaning because a reciprocal relationship exists between larger societal processes and their influence on the individual. The labeling theory emphasizes the importance of society in defining what is illegal and in assigning deviant status to particular individuals; consequently, this dominates their identities and behaviors. Sociologist, Howard Becker, describes how particular rule-breakers assume the label of “deviant” as a salient identity. When the identity is the role to which one most...
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