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AMPLIFICATION OF DEVIANCE

Deviant Behavior, Moral Panic

Developed by Leslie Wilkens, the term 'Social Amplification of Deviance' is used more frequently in Britain. Deviance amplification refers to the unintended outcome of moral panics or social policies designed to prevent or reduce deviance.

A media hype phenomenon, 'Amplification of Deviance' or 'deviancy amplification spiral' refers to an exagerated cycle of reporting on particular antisocial behavior. The media whips up a moral panic which is coupled with calls for strengthening the forces of law and order.

In Folk Devils and Moral Panics, Stanley Cohen wrote that moral panics usually include a deviancy amplification spiral. Certain groups periodically become the focus of moral panics.

They are labelled as being outside the central core values of our consensual society and as posing a particular threat to them. The groups investigated by Cohen were the Mods and Rockers. The 'central core values' which such groups transgress against are argued to be the norms and values which serve the interests of the dominant classes.

Typically, the attention given to deviance by the media and moral entrepreneurs serves to attract new recruits and provides them with a definition of what the public expects, thus amplifying the amount of deviance in society.

Because of such 'amplification of deviant behavior', insignificant problems gain significance and uncommon events begin to look common. Media keeps people motivated and informed on such events. The 'deviancy amplification spiral' glamorizes and increases deviant behavior by making it acceptable.

Labeling the Labelers: A Quasi-Experiment Examining the Deviance Amplification Hypothesis at the Organizational-Level
Ward, Jeffrey - Paper presented at the annual meeting of the AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CRIMINOLOGY
Abstract: The two main testable hypotheses of labeling theory, the “status characteristic hypothesis” and the “deviance amplification hypothesis”, are derived from the conflict perspective and the symbolic interactionist tradition, respectively. This paper focuses on the latter hypothesis and extends the labeling framework to the organizational-level. Symbolic interactionist labeling theorists attempt to answer the question: “what happens to the individual after being labeled” (Paternoster and Iovanni, 1989)? “what happens to the organization after being labeled?” More specifically, do organizations that are labeled amplify their deviant behavior? This paper tests the deviance amplification hypothesis at the organizational-level using a quasi-experimental design.

African Delinquency as Social Amplification of Deviance
Revue internationale de criminologie et de police technique Volume: 35 Issue:2 
It finds labeling effects arising from inappropriately criminalized behaviors, from the discretionary practices of arrest and prosecution authorities, and the absence of diversion alternatives.

FORMAL PROCESSING AND FUTURE DELINQUENCY: DEVIANCE AMPLIFICATION AS SELECTION ARTIFACT - DOUGLAS A. SMITH, RAYMOND PATERNOSTER - Law & Society Review, Vol. 24, 1990
Does referring a case to juvenile court or diverting it affect a person's future delinquent/criminal behavior? Labeling theory suggests that it does, arguing that formal processing by the juvenile justice system is part of a deviance amplification process that ultimately results in increased criminal/delinquent activity. But critics point out that a higher rate of future offending among those referred to court, often interpreted as evidence supporting the deviance amplification argument, could be nothing more than a selection artifact. This article discusses approaches for testing the deviance amplification argument against the alternative hypothesis of a selection artifact.
Labeling theorists ( Lemert, 1951; Becker, 1963) contend that social reactions to initial or primary deviance may restrict one's ability to maintain a conventional lifestyle. Limitations arise because being labeled may create barriers to legitimate employment or lead to social censure from conventional others. This process, described by Tannenbaum as the "dramatization of evil," increases the likelihood that the labeled person will become more involved in and committed to a deviant line of activity than he or she was before the labeling experience.

Religiosity and Delinquency over Time: Deviance Deterrence and Deviance Amplification. - Peek, Charles W.; And Others
Social Science Quarterly, v66 n1 p120-31 Mar 1985
Abstract: Religiosity deters self-reported delinquent conduct in a national panel of White high school males interviewed as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. However, decreases from high sophomore religiosity are associated with greater senior delinquency.

The Politics of Deviance and Terror - Lauderdale, Pat
Abstract: Is the leader of loose-knit bands of hit-and-run killers of British soldiers a terrorist? Or, is he a revolutionary hero or freedom fighter? What is your view of George Washington? And, what is your assessment of Nat Turner who executed Virginia slave owners and their families in 1830? Is the Jewish ‘terrorist' in Palestine in 2003 significantly different from the Palestinian ‘terrorist' in Israel in 2003?
How do we go about answering such questions? What conditions lead someone to be defined as a terrorist versus a freedom fighter? The sociology of deviance also can be viewed as the study of stratification and social mobility, rather than only the shift of moral boundaries resulting in the amplification or creation of deviance (see Gould, 2002 on status hierarchies). "Deviants" often struggle to overcome their positions at the bottom of a status hierarchy, and/or others attempt to shift the balance of power (Cummins, 1994).

Cycles of Deviance: Structural Change, Moral Boundaries, and Drug Use, 1880-1990 - J E Hawdon
Sociological Spectrum Volume:16 Issue:2 Dated:(April-June 1996) Pages:183-207
Abstract: The model tracks changes in the structure of deviance, explains when a boundary crisis will develop, clarifies how the amplification of deviance eventually ends, and explains how deviant behaviors sometimes become acceptable. The historical data support the explanation that changing moral definitions and rates of behavior depend on demographic and economic changes in society. The two drug epidemics that occurred in the United States since 1880 occurred when structural change expanded pluralism.

African Delinquency as Social Amplification of Deviance - G Houchon
Revue internationale de criminologie et de police technique Volume:35 Issue:2 Dated:(April-June 1982) Pages:147-164
Abstract: It proposes instead, a look at statistical and morphological aspects of the problem and at the workings of criminal justice and child protection services. It finds labeling effects arising from inappropriately criminalized behaviors, from the discretionary practices of arrest and prosecution authorities, and the absence of diversion alternatives. Particularly in the cultural milieu of African communities, judges should not be making disposition decisions regarding status offenders and other less serious forms of juvenile deviance.

Aggregation and amplification of marginal deviations in the social construction of personality and maladjustment
GIAN VITTORIO Caprara, University of Rome, Italy, Philip G. Zimbardo, Stanford University, USA
Abstract: Some social maladjustment in children is understood from a new perspective focusing on the cyclical interaction between personality variables and social psychological processes in the development of risk mechanisms. A profile of originally marginal deviations between a child and peers on selected behavioural tasks and personality functioning is a risk indicator of eventual significant perturbations in social adjustment.