Constructions of Deviance: Reading Paper #1

Reading Paper #1

Bethany Herold

SOCY 2440 E01

Dr. Maren T. Scull

August 27, 2015

Constructions of Deviance: Social Power, Context, and Interaction breaks down actions and reactions related to norms and deviance into four possible scenarios: negative deviance, deviance admiration, rate busting, and positive deviance (Heckert and Heckert, 2016, pg. 27). The deviant acts can be ways of thinking, actions, or outward appearances. They can also be ascribed or attained. Not all are viewed in a negative light, but all either under-conform, over-conform, or simply refuse to conform to the standards decided upon by the given society. The norm faithfulness with be used to describe and relate to the aforementioned terms.

Negative deviance pertains to either nonconformity or underconformity (Heckert and Heckert, 2016, pg. 32). Essentially, it’s not successfully in meeting the standards, or refuses to even try to meet the standards, of a given norm. It is looked down upon by the members of society that have agreed upon the norm that is being disobeyed or failed. Negative deviance often includes many activities and behaviors that are considered criminal, although that is not a requirement. This could include rape, theft, murder, and embezzling. In regards to the norm of faithfulness, examples of negative deviance would be infidelity, betraying a friend, leader or loved one, and inconsistency.

Deviance admiration pertains to nonconformity or underconformity as well, only it is seen in a positive light (Heckert and Heckert, 2016, pg. 33). Essentially, it hasn’t met the standards of a given norm, and may even be defying those standards, but something about the situation caused onlookers to applaud the offence. Many revolutions-American, French, etc.- have begun because of deviance admiration. On a smaller scale, many movements have begun and ideologies spread because of the unwillingness of certain individuals to conform. In regards to the norm of faithfulness, examples of deviance admiration would include cheating on or leaving an abusive spouse, or abandoning a bad leader or company.

Rate busting pertains to overconforming that is looked down upon, also known as the “geek phenomenon” (Heckert and Heckert, 2016, pg. 34). Essentially, people with intentions of meeting the perfect criteria of a given norm overachieve to reach the goal, and are left with thoughts, behaviors, and/or actions that others deem excessive. Sometimes rate busting is ascribed, and being labeled as such can vary depending on social groups. Certain religious sects, physical traits such as being short, and intelligence, can all be placed in the rate busting category. In regards to the norm of faithfulness, examples of rate busting could include being so blinded by commitment to one persona that other relationships are neglected, not leaving a job because of over-commitment to a coworker, and being too faithful to one’s spouse (not watching movies that show naked members of the other sex, etc.).

Positive deviance pertains to overconforming or hyperconformity to norms that are viewed positively by society (Heckert and Heckert, 2016, pg. 36). Essentially, this includes people that have gone above and beyond the requirements of a norm, but unlike rate busting, others generally approve of it. Norm violations may be regarded as rate busting and positive deviance depending on the group that is associated. For example, never calling in sick may be viewed as brown-nosing by coworkers, but to a supervisor, that is a positive trait. In regards to faithfulness, examples of positive deviance can include a spouse who is consistently faithful to their partner through the course of several military deployments, a spouse that refuses to remarry after their partner has died, and an employee that stands by their company through a financial fallout.

According to Chapter 11, the concept of socially constructed deviance emerged after the labeling theory lost credibility because it was considered too absolutist in its approach when applied to areas like homosexuality, disabilities, and gender rights (Best, 2016, pg. 106). The constructionist approach was flexible, and a more reasonable way of viewing deviance. It helped to lessen the absolutist approach, and tone down contorted claims. Social constructionism essentially focuses on how groups create and classify deviance, and what causes the varying levels of severity dependent on the norm being violated. It focuses both on acts as well as people, as deviance can both both ascribed and attained. Much care is given to how various groups interpret deviance, and why specific norm violations trigger a more volatile reaction than others. Finally, specific areas of study are also dedicated to influential groups and individuals, and the importance they play in categorizing deviance. The reality of deviance is in constant motion, and varies from culture to culture and year to year.


Adler, P., & Adler, P. (2016). Constructions of Deviance: Social Power, Context, and Interaction (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.


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