Human behaviors in the society are subjected to social norms. Essentially, social norms are virtual rules and regulations that define actions and behaviors of people in a society. Any behavior that contravenes these regulations and rules is a deviant behavior. Since human behavior is complex, formal and informal regulations usually determine the occurrence of formal and informal deviance respectively. The contravention of formal regulations amounts to formal deviance, while the contravention of informal regulations results in informal one.
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As the act of wearing strange clothes contravenes virtual rules and regulations that govern dressing code, the essay considers it as an informal deviance. Dressing code is a normative behavior because the society expects people to wear conventional clothes that are decent, clean, and modest. Conventional clothes have one main standard feature that defines the gender of the people. Moreover, conventional clothes exist in terms of fashions, which define how one wears them plus their accessories.
Although clothes vary according to race, culture, religion, and gender, they exhibit some trends, which depict them as decent, clean, and modest. However, the act of wearing strange clothes, which do not relate to any religion, race, gender, and culture, constitutes a deviant behavior. Since the act of wearing strange clothes in public is a deviant behavior, how do people react when they see a person with strange clothes walking a market?
Deviance is a violation of social norms in the society, which elicits a number of reactions among people in the society. When people in the society see a person violating social norms, they react in a way that disapproves the deviant behavior. Wearing strange clothes in a public place such as market attracts a great deal of attention from the people. The attraction is part of the sociological response to deviance. The act of wearing strange clothes is a deviant behavior that elicits sociological responses from observers.
To explain the occurrence of the deviant behavior of wearing strange clothes and describe societal responses to the deviant behavior, the experiment utilizes the labeling theory. Human behaviors are subject to social norms that people use in labeling behaviors, either as deviant or non-deviant behaviors. According to Grattet, the labeling theory stipulates that powerful people in the society, who consider themselves non-deviants, label others as deviants in a bid to gain social control (2012).
The act of labeling others as deviants or non-deviants is a subjective process that is dependent on prevailing social norms. Hence, the labeling theory explains the deviant behavior of wearing strange clothes in the market and describes the responses of observers.
From the perspective of the labeling theory, one can effectively describe deviant behaviors that are common in the society. Given that individuals in the society experience dilemmas in the course of their lives, which confuse their perceptions of the world, self-labeling occurs. A study done among the older undergraduates indicates that they experience self-labeling as they struggle to resolve their social dilemmas (Norris, 2011). Owing to their age factor, the older students label themselves as deviant students.
Since the ages of other students, whom the older students interact with in college are very young, they develop a sense of guilt for violating social norms that relate to self-labeling. According to Norris, the students violated age-based norms, which have made them internalize the notion of being deviant students, who should not be learning with the younger students. Therefore, the theory of labeling explains why self-labeling is very influential in defining the identity of people in the society.
What triggers the older students to label themselves as deviants is contextual dissonance. The mismatch in terms of age that exists between the younger and older students is contextual dissonance, which triggers self-labeling. Contextual resonance also occurs because the age and the roles of the students differ significantly.
Essentially, the younger and older students perform similar roles in terms of learning. Norris (2011) argues that the older students perceive themselves as parents, while they perceive the younger students as their children. Thus, the existence of mismatch between age and roles compels the older students to isolate themselves from the rest of the students due to self-labeling as deviant students.
Reminder cues also trigger students to label themselves as deviants. The reminder cues make the older students harbor negative feelings and expectations based on the social norms, which regard them as aged-based deviants.
Constant remembrance of discrimination and stigmatization due to age-related attributes create reminder cues, which compel the older students to label and isolate themselves from other students. Norris (2011) states that the older students avoid interacting with the younger students because they do not want them to know that they are undergraduates. Hence, age-based deviance creates the perception that the older students are deviants.
Since students interact in colleges, the social interactions have created channels of communications that triggers self-labeling. According to Norris (2011), third-party communication reveals that the younger students do not like interacting and learning with the older students. The third-party revelations make the older students develop negative feelings about the young students and thus start to perceive themselves as deviant students based on their ages.
From such experience of self-labeling, it is evident that the labeling theory effectively describes how deviant behaviors occur among students of different ages. The age-based norms created by the younger students and accepted by the older students form the basis of differentiating deviant and non-deviant students in college.
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In comparison with the act of wearing strange clothes and self-labeling among college students, the labeling theory also describes the experience of people with bipolar disorder. The existence of bipolar disorder in the society has made people label others as either normal or mad. The concepts of normality and madness are labels that people give to others according to their behaviors, and thus depict them as either deviants or non-deviants.
Goldberg (2012) argues that the society determines deviance by assessing certain attributes of people and assigning them labels, which depict them as deviants or not. Once people get the labels based on their conditions, they remain deviants as long as the social norms in the society continue to dominate. This shows that the people, who receive labels, have no choice other than to tolerate the labels and live as deviants in the society.
The construct of bipolar is negative because it perceives them as abnormal people, who are deviants in the society. The social construction of the bipolar disorder is madness. When psychiatrists diagnose patients and find that they suffer from the bipolar disorder, the patients express great despair because it results into madness, as per the social construction. The labeling of bipolar disorder as madness has a powerful impact on people with bipolar because it depicts them as mad people.
Since people with bipolar learn about their condition when they are sick, they start to label themselves as mad people, who should not interact with the normal people. The labeling of the people with bipolar disorder has significant influence on their lives because it increases stigma and worries about life.
Goldberg (2012) asserts that social norms reinforce labeling of people with bipolar disorder; and hence, enhances the perception of deviance. Thus, the labeling theory explains why people with bipolar experience greater anxiety than necessary when they realize their conditions.
Analysis of the experiences of the people with bipolar disorder indicates that their conditions are like deviant behaviors in the society because the society labels them as mad people. The distinction of the people with bipolar using social constructs or labels such as ‘mad’ or ‘normal’ traumatize them because they fear being perceived as ‘others,’ yet they have the ability to interact with people normally. The discrimination against the people based on their sickness amounts to labeling them as deviants or the abnormal people.
Goldberg (2012) argues that, as the social norms have perceived people with bipolar as deviants, who are mad or crazy, they have learned to accept such labels and live with them since their childhood. In this case, the labeling theory effectively explains why people with bipolar disorder experience immense trauma in the society, instead of receiving social protection and care.
The study utilized qualitative research design in setting up the sociological experiment. Since the experiment involved wearing strange clothes in public places, the study collected data using the participant-observation method. By using a participant-observational method, the researcher was able to collect ample information from the reactions, which people depicted in response to the deviant behavior of wearing strange clothes in public. The target audience of experiment comprises of people in the market, both buyers and sellers.
The market is an appropriate place for the experiment because it allows interaction of people from diverse backgrounds. The variables that the study examined are age, gender, race, and status. As the study sought to find out how people react when they see a person with strange clothes, it measured reactions such as gestures, comments, and social interactions.
Discussion of the Findings
When I entered the marketplace, buyers and sellers left what they were doing and started to look at me intensely. The people were essentially wondering what kind of person I was because of my strange clothes. Since people were not familiar with the strange clothes, they were busy trying to identify the nature of clothes with a view of recognizing my identity.
Grattet (2012) states that the primary reason for societal reaction is to familiarize itself with strange behavior so that it can categorize it as either deviant or not. This describes how people in the market reacted when they saw me arriving at the market, while dressed in strange clothes that they could not identify. Thus, the first reactions of the people in the market were to unravel my identity so that they could assess if I was violating social norms of dressing or not.
The adult people appeared to dislike the strange clothes because the kind of expression on their faces depicted that they were angry with me. Mainly, the businesspersons, who were busy selling their products, perceived that I was disrupting their customers, and consequently imagined that I wanted to destroy their business activities. Based on the expressions on their faces, I could see that businesspersons did not like my presence at all.
Thus, the deviant behavior of wearing strange clothes was very disgusting to the adult people in the market because they did not want any disturbance. Grattet (2012) argues that people respond negatively to deviant behaviors using a number of expressions that are evident. In this case, sellers and buyers expressed displeasure when they saw me entering into the market. The reaction of the people indicates that wearing strange clothes was a despicable behavior, which they did not want to entertain.
In contrast to the adults, children appeared attracted to me because what I was wearing seemed attractive to them. Since children love fun, the strange clothes I wore made and which made me appear like an acrobat entertained them.
Children quickly assembled and followed me across the market as a bid to provoke me to interact with and entertain them. Identity plays a significant role in social interaction because it creates rapport among the parties in certain social settings (Norris, 2011). Hence, children were trying to create rapport so that I could interact with them.
People in the market gave numerous comments about my strange clothing when I entered the market. Some people commented I was a mad person, who came to the market to disturb them. Such a comment indicates that the people in the market were labeling me as a different person. The labeling theory holds that societal reaction to deviant behavior is to denounce and isolate it from the social environment (Grattet, 2012).
Given that the deviant behavior violates social norms, the societal reaction to such behaviors is to disapprove them. People depict their disapproval to deviant behavior by making negative comments, which aim to label the behavior as deviant. By labeling me as a mad person with ill intentions, the people in the market achieved their objective of isolating me a deviant in the market based on the dressing code.
While adults gave negative comments about my strange clothes, the children were jovial since they followed me all over the market, while cheering me up. As children perceived me as an acrobat, they requested that I performed some acrobatics to them before leaving the market. Positive comments from children show that they approved my strange clothes because they perceived them as attractive. From the perspective of the labeling theory, children gave me positive labels.
According to the children, the strange clothes were very interesting in that they did not scare them away, but instead attracted them to me. Goldberg (2012) states that social norms that govern a certain social group determine the approval or disapproval of certain behaviors. In this case, the children did not perceive the act of wearing strange clothes as a deviant behavior.
When I tried to buy goods in the market, some sellers responded that they do not need my money, while others abused me using derogatory terms. By refusing to sell goods to me, the sellers disapproved my dressing code because it violated social norms.
Likewise, abuses indicate that the sellers in the market did not support the deviant behavior of wearing strange clothes because it was unpleasant and disgusting. Grattet (2012) states that people in the society cannot tolerate deviant behaviors so long as they have power to rebuke and reprimand deviants. Thus, the negative comments show that the sellers disapproved my deviant behavior of wearing strange clothes.
When I entered the market, people paved the way for me. The people in the market did not want to associate with me because of my strange clothes, which depicted me as a deviant person in the market. The act of paving the way and escaping when I approached them depicts the degree of the deviant behavior.
Norris (2011) argues that the extent of social interaction among people portray shared norms. People, who share a considerable number of social norms, interact more than those people, who share little norms. Since I appeared as a deviant person in the market, no one wanted to interact with me.
As businesspersons avoided selling their goods to me, they clearly depicted how they perceived the behavior of wearing strange clothes as deviant behavior. In their comments, sellers perceived me as a mad person, and thus they thought I was unable to purchase anything from them. In reality, it is difficult to negotiate with mad people since their communication styles are unique.
Goldberg (2012) states that people discriminate against people with bipolar disorder because they label them as mad people. Thus, behaviors of the people in the society portray their disapproval to deviant behaviors of wearing strange clothes.
In contrast to adults, children exhibited unique behaviors as they tried their best to interact with me. As I walked through the market, children followed me while taking photos. The strange clothes appealed to children, despite the fact that the adult people labeled me as a mad person, and furthermore became unapproachable when I tried to purchase goods from them.
In an environment where people share social norms, labeling of others is rare (Norris, 2011). This means that the strange clothes appealed to the desires and norms of children, as they comprise a group of people, who approved my strange clothes. Therefore, the experiment depicts the act of wearing strange clothes as deviant behavior, which is not in tandem with social norms of marketplace.
Deviance is behavior that breaches social norms in a certain social environment. Since social norms vary from one society to another, it implies that deviant behaviors also vary. From the experiment, it is evident that the deviant behavior of wearing strange clothes in a public place like the market elicited mixed societal responses. While business people disapproved the behavior because they perceived it as a behavior of mad person, they struggled to dissociate themselves from the deviant act.
The labeling theory effectively describes the scenario of their disapproval. According to the theory, when people want to disapprove a given deviant behavior, they depict their disapproval in the form of gestures, comments, and actions. In this case, the gestures, comments, and actions of the adults clearly portrayed the act of wearing strange clothes as deviant behavior. In contrast, children approved the behavior because it resonated with their social norms. Overall, people in the market gave mixed reactions to the behavior of wearing strange clothes because adults disapproved it, while children approved it.
Goldberg, S. (2012). Becoming the denigrated other: group relations perspectives on initial reactions to a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Frontiers in Psychology vol. 3. no. 1 pgs. 1-14.
Grattet, R. (2012) Societal reaction to deviance. Annual Review of Sociology vol. 37. no. 1. pgs. 185-204.
Norris, D. (2011) Interactions That Trigger Self-Labeling: The Case of Older Undergraduates.” Symbolic Interaction vol. 34. no. 2. pgs. 173-197.