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Chapter 2

SOCB50: Chapter 2: Understanding and Testing Theories of Deviance.docx

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Denis Wall

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W.3. – SOCB50 Chapter 2: Understanding and Testing Theories of Deviance  No single theory has managed to stake out a monopoly on truth  If deviance is a destination, many paths lead to it, one path is marked by psychopathy, another is by organized crime, and others are more strongly associated by groups o As long as there are many paths, it is unlikely to develop a single (one size fits all) theory THEORY HAS EXPLANATION  Explanations have been described as “the stories we tell each other in attempt to produce some order in our lives”  One of the most important distinctions is among theories that are mainly empathetic, scientific or ideological Empathetic Explanations  Includes much of the subjective (inner feeling) as well as the objective (viewed from the outside) reality of the even being explained, often seems more complete and thus more satisfying, than an exclusively objective explanation  Empathy has limits =we cannot emphasize w/ serial killing, being infected with HIV – aka there are too many things we cannot empathize and feel  This approach is found mainly in the interpretive interaction theories  Treated w/ disdain from more scientific approaches who believe empathy gets in the way of being correct Scientific Explanations  Use of the scientific method or adaptations of it  Provides techniques for developing models of how the world works, hypotheses about the connectedness of things  Works best w/ inorganic and nonsocial realities  Science is an ideal; it is not usually an achieved reality bc deviance is difficult to study using tools of the scientific method  Using this method we can come to make better predictions about which parolees, smokers, dieters etc will change, and how much; also we can study how society changes to provide a more or less criminogenic environment over time IDEOLOGICAL EXPLANATIONS Ideological explanations are based on systems of ideas that are held as irrefutable doctrine  Often a matter of passionate belief  These studies are found most openly in the writings of prescientific religious authorities who demanded obedience to the dogmas of the Church and in the work of some radical conflict theorists who believe just as tenaciously in the tenets of Marxism or one of its competitors FORMULATION OF THEORY Variables – the causes, or many events that may precede (or have some role on producing) the bhr we are studying.  Theory helps us to select events worth investigating.  Theories are developed through alternating processes of: o Inductive approach- looking at many specific cases and then make generalizations about them. [Cesare Lombroso made extensive use of this in the founding of criminological “science”, generalizing from the shape of some 300 skulls to do the whol nature of “criminal men] o Deductive approaches- derive specific expectations from general rules that have been suggested either by previous research or by the logical relations of an existing theory [Durkheims theory of suicide..starts w/ predictions based on his theory about impact of the social order, and then finds that the statistics of his day support his predictions] THE COMPONENTS OF THEORY All theories – emphatic, ideological, and scientific – will require the use of concepts and variables and statements of connections among them. 1  Sensitizing concepts symbolizes aspects of reality that we particularly want to think about. i.e. police may use the concept “suspicious” when describing a bhr  Variable- concept that can be operationalized by being counted or measured  Hypothesis- relationship bw variables is usually expressed as a tentative statement  Independent variable- causal, experimental variable  Dependent variable – variable we seek to explain o Intervening variable – other variables o If the hypothesis was correct, when one variable changes, the other will change in the predicted way, as long as the intervening conditions remain the same A theory is never entirely discredited, nor is it ever entirely proven – the most we can say is that its “strongly supported” The Classical Experiment Experimental design- has evolved as the ideal type of research in science Four steps in a primary model of experimental research: 1. Involves the selection of at least 2 groups that are equivalent, with respect to the DV. One group is the experimental group, the other is the control group 2. Experimental group is exposed to the IV. Control group does not get IV although treated same way. 3. Both groups are measured on the DP. At this point the groups should no longer be identical 4. Difference bw time one and time two is computed from the control group and the experimental group. Measuring Connectedness: Correlation Coefficients Correlation coefficient- statistical measure that tells us to what extent, and in what ways, two variables are related to e/p  Its size tells us whether its statistically significant  A strong correlation does not always mean that a causal relationship exists bw the two variables – it says they only change together Causality Causality- is considered strongly supported when three conditions are met. 1) When one variable changes, the others change in predictable ways. 2) We must show that the variable deemed to be the IV (causal) occurs or changed before the variable that is deemed to be caused undergoes change. 3) Must be able to rule out other variables that emerge as candidates for causal status.  Spurious correlation- one that is high but not causal The problems of representation can be illustrated by the crime funnel which expresses the relationship bw the total number of crimes that occur and number of accused who are at various stages in the criminal justice process  top of the funnel represents all crime, detected or not  the middle depicts all crime reported to, or otherwise discovered by, the police  near the end of the bottom of the funnel are those individuals incarcerated in a regular prison instead of diverted into community service, psychiatric care, or back to their friends/families  at the bottom, we have considerable amount of info about a few unrepresentative cases, while at the top we find very little info about a great many cases Reliability- when measures are consistent that reflect a regularity that occurs in nature  achieving the same results will give us test-retest reliability Validity- are we measuring what we think we are measuring The Validity of Statistics  it is often assumed that numerical data are more valid than qualitative data  Self-report studies-produce what appear to be well-grounded statistics. h.w there is more deviance than is reported through official channels bc it is a possibility they are not answering truthfully. They can also act like attempts to deceive people. 1. Real Figure- represents actual number of ppl who engage in a particular kind of deviance 2. Error Component- caused by over or underreporting 3. random errors- generally accidental and self cancelling 4. systematic errors- may create cumulative distortions in the data 2  Social policies may distort the recording of empirical realities. i.e. babies are recorded as male or female after birth, but those cases where a male is born with female characteristics is not accounted. This applies for ethnicities i.e. when people have the option of being recorded as “black”, “white”, “indigenous” or “other”  Problems of accuracy: an acute problem in deviance studies is the failure to obtain an accurate description of the thing to be explained (DV)  Data as a social activity: the social organization of research activity can introduce distortions that may have undesirable consequences (they affect which problems to investigate, social values are intruded)  Validity can be improved if we have multiple measures i.e. establishing a valid murder rate estimate, we might consult police records and hospital reports and compare the sources w. others, such as survivor interview data; when estimates based on these various methods agree, we are inclined to accept their validity, when they don’t we are altered to possible sources of error. MAJOR SOURCES OF DATA ON DEVIANCE  Self report data and (SRD) and victimization surveys  Field observations  Secondary analysis of statistical data  Secondary analysis of biographical materials  Simulations  Journalistic accounts Self-Report Data (SRD): have been mainly used to ask people what kinds of deviance they have participated in. this allows us access to info about uncaught or unrecorded deviance.  Self-Report Questionnaires: survey questionnaire; h/w
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