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Labeling theory says that individuals come to recognize and carry on in manners that reflect how others label them. This theory is connected to the human science of wrongdoing and aberrance. Naming and regarding somebody as criminally degenerate can cultivate deviant conduct. In response, that person is more likely to act negatively. Crossman (2018) stated in an article that the labeling theory is one of the essential approaches to understanding deviant behavior. This labeling theory is rooted in the idea of the social construction of reality and is linked to the symbolic interactionist perspective. Its core idea comes from Howard Becker and Edwin Lemert in the 1960s. Now that the foundation has been set, I would like to give some examples and explain the effects that can take place on a person psychologically.
Around 1970, a small-town teacher in Iowa Jane Elliott experimented with her third-grade class that was recorded and documented. To this day, it is widely recognized and taught in school for police officers, correctional officers, and is used for many other educational purposes. Jane Elliott’s experiment became known as “A Class Divided.” Elliott separated her third-grade class by the color of their eyes; blue or brown. Elliott told her whole class that blue-eyed people are dumb, they don’t behave well, and they get bad grades. Then, she told her class that brown-eyed people are better than blue-eyed people. Dark-eyed people get better grades than blue-eyed people, they behave better and are in fact, smarter. Over the course of the week, she continued to enforce those new ideas and the students with blue eyes started to behave worse, their scores went down, and some of the children got into fights on the playground. However, the very next week, Elliott told her third-grade class that she made a mistake. That actually, it was not the dark-eyed people that are good. They are the ones that cannot do well in school, cannot listen, and are not well-behaved. In reality, it is the blue-eyed people who are better.
Jane Elliott noticed the same pattern that week. Now, the dark-eyed children have lower test scores, and the blue-eyed children showed significant improvement compared to the week that they had been labeled as bad. Once the two weeks were over, Elliott explained to her class that it was all a test and that everyone was to be friends and treated the same because blue eyes or dark eyes did not matter. Now that I have given an example of the labeling theory, I’m going to talk about labeling and criminology. Once again, the labeling theory suggests that people’s behavior is influenced by the label attached to them by society. According to a study from the Institute of Criminology (University of Cambridge) being labeled as bad might expand a person’s relationship with poorly-behaved people and impact his or herself-perception, attitudes, and beliefs.
After merging with their criminal generalizations, these people will intensify their offending behavior. Likewise, individuals may recognize more with degenerate social groups after being labeled as deviant. I have discussed the definition of labeling theory, the origins of the labeling theory and how it originated from two psychologists, Howard Becker, and Edwin Lemert. I covered the experiment conducted by Jane Elliott on her third-grade class to demonstrate that labeling does have a psychological effect on an individual’s behavior. Additionally, I discussed how criminology and the labeling theory are closely linked.
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