Chapter 2 - Understanding and Testing Theories of Deviance
Many Paths: Many Theories
-No single cause can effectively explain al kinds of deviant designations and deviant actions – no single theory has
managed to stake out a monopoly on truth.
- Many paths lead to deviance, some more heavily than others.
o One path marked by psychopathy – mainly begun within the deviant
o Another path is organized crime
-As long as there are many paths, we are unlikely to develop a single theory that explains every kind of deviance.
Theory as Explanation
- Explanations have been described as the stories we tell each other in attempts to produce some order in our lives. They
allow us to feel as if we know why something happened and predict future chances of it happening again.
- Study of deviance is systematic, comprehensive and self-conscious
- Theories are mainly empathetic, scientific or ideological. All social theories have elements of all three, but what matters
is the degree of emphasis placed on these featyres.
-When you can understand other people’s acts because you could place yourself in the situation
-Empathetic explanation includes a lot of subjective (inner feeling) as well as objective (viewed from outside) reality of the
event being explained, often seems more complete, and thus more satisfying, than an exclusively obective explanation.
-Empathy has its limits – can’t easily empathize with serial killing
-In deviance studies, the subjective, empathetic approach is the one most keyed to understanding the actor’s point of view
and the actor’s decisions. This approach is mainly found in interpretive interactive theories. It’s treated with disdain by the
more extreme of the science-oriented positivistic theories, who feel that the observer’s subjectivity gets in the way of being
correct about what we see, especially about potentially “manipulative” subject matter.
-Make use of the scientific method or adaptations of it. This method provides techniques for developing models of how
world works, as well as hypotheses about the connectedness of things.
-This method works best with inorganic and nonsocial realities, and does not handle human agency very well.
-For studies of deviance science is an ideal. It is not usually an achieved reality, because deviance is very difficult to
observe and study using tools of scientific method and because humans are complex Positivism is extreme in its refusal
to give any importance to human feelings, understandings, and choices. Post-positivist theories (or post-modern) look
beyond the scientific model to show us things that can’t be see within the limits of the scientific approach.
-This method provides for controlling observations so that the knowledge gained will be tested and cumulative
-For deviance this approach has been most fully developed in area of biological explanations
-Based on systems of ideas that are held as irrefutable doctrine – often a matter of passionate belief. These ideas are
found in the writings of prescientific religious authorities and in the work of some radical conflict theorists.
-Ideological biases me be implicit (present but not so obviously present) in other works. We have to recognize ideological
positions that are not acknowledged as well. These can affect the attainment of knowledge as much as acknowledged
-If data do not fit, ideologues think something is wrong with the data or with way it was collected
The Formulation of Theory
-Different explanations can be used to explain different types of deviance
-In real life many events or variables (the actual causes) may work together to precede (and seem to produce) the
behavior that is being studied. Theory helps us select events worth investigating.
-Theories are generally developed through alternating processes of inductive and deductive logic
• Inductive: look at specific cases and then make generalizations about them.
• Deductive: derive specific expectations from general rules that have been suggested either by previous
research or by logical relations of an existing theory
The Components of Theory
-All explanations (whether empathetic, ideological, or scientific) require the use of concepts and variables and statements
of connections among them
-This symbolizes aspects of reality that we particularly want to think about. Using one set of concepts rather than another,
can have an impact on what we are able to see
-This is a key concept that can be operationalized by being counted or measured. For example age of first drunkenness
-Relationship between variables is usually expressed as a tentative statement or hypothesis. It asserts that particular
variables are regularly related to each other in a specific way whenever conditions occur.
• Independent variable – one variable as the causal, experimental
• Dependent variable – thing or event we seek to explain – is the outcome.
• Other variables in the causal chain are known as intervening variables
-If the hypothesis is correct, when one variable changes, the other will change in the predicted way, as long as the intervening conditions remain the same. The selection of which hypothesis to test is normally guided by a theory.
Methods and Measures for Testing Theory and its Components
-Social scientists are expected to test and evaluate the extent to which findings either support or challenge theoretical
Tests of Hypotheses
-Theories can survive many incompatible results – a theory is never entirely discredited, no matter how many facts refute
it. Also never entirely proven no matter how many times facts support it. The most we can say is that a theory is “strongly
The Classical Experimental Design
-The classical Experimental design: evolved as ideal type of research in science. The norm against which designs are
-Four steps followed in primary model:
1. Selection of at least two groups that are equivalent with respect to dependent variable. Includes experimental
group and control group
2. Experimental group is exposed to independent variable, control group is treated same but not exposed to
3. Both groups are measured on dependent variable. At this stage (sometimes known as “time two”), the two
groups will likely no longer be identical.
4. The difference between time one and time two (a vis a vis measure of the dependent variable) is computed for
the control group and experimental group
Measuring Connectedness: Correlation Coefficients
-Correlation coefficient: a statistical measure that tells us to what extent, and in what ways, two variables are related to
each other. Its size helps us decide whether a difference is statistically significant
-A direct or positive relationship is one in which both variables change in the same direction. If one increases, the other
increases, and if one decreases, the other decreases. A negative relationship is one in which increases in one variable
are associated with decreases in the other.
-Correlations range from +1.00 (perfect positive), to -1.00 (perfect negative). A correlation of 0 wo