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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Textbook Notes

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University of Toronto St. George
Nathan Innocente

CHAPTER 2 – Understanding and Testing Theories of Deviance If deviance is a destination, many paths lead to it, some more heavily used than others. One path is marked by psychopathy (some people are pyromaniacs). Another is fraud (a person burning property to claim insurance money). Yet another path is organized crime (using arson in extortion rackets). Jilted lovers or mischievous children may set fires. Theories can be classified in many ways. For our purposes, one of the most important distinctions is among theories that are mainly empathetic, scientific, or ideological. All social theories have some empathetic, scientific, and ideological content. What matters here is the degree of emphasis placed on these features. When we hear of a woman who has killed her husband, we may be quite satisfied with the explanation that he was abusive to her or threatened her children. The empathetic explanation, because it includes much of the subjective (inner feeling) as well as the objective (viewed from the outside) reality of the event being explained, often seems more complete, and thus more satisfying, than an exclusively objective explanation. Empathy, however, has limits. Most of us cannot imagine any circumstances in which we would, if not already infected, seek out a partner with AIDS for unprotected sex, yet this kind of “bug chasing” does occur. Similarly, we cannot easily empathize with serial killing, or someone who eats people he has invited for dinner, and yet that happens too. We sometimes enclose the word “scientific” in quotation marks to indicate that, 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 the tools of the scientific method, and because human beings are simply much more complex than rocks and stars. We use the term “positivism” to indicate work that may be extreme in its refusal to give any importance to human feelings, understandings, and choices. Ideological explanations are based on systems of ideas that are held as irrefutable doctrine. They are not just tentatively proposed, in the manner of scientific hypotheses, but rather are often a matter of passionate belief. Ideologies are almost impervious to new information or alternative interpretations. In deviance studies, ideological explanations 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. In an Inductive Approach we look at many specific cases and then make generalizations about them. In deductive approaches, we derive specific expectations from general rules that have been suggested either by previous research or by the logical relations of an existing theory. A sensitizing concept symbolizes aspects of reality that we particularly want to think about. A variable is a concept that can be operationalized by being counted or measured. The 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 specified conditions occur. The classical experimental design has evolved as the ideal type of research in science. It is the norm against which most research designs are evaluated. Very few, if any, studies in the field of deviance fully meet all of its criteria, but it remains an important model for our work. The correlation coefficient is a statistical measure that tells us to what extent, and in what ways, two variables are related to each other. Its size helps us to decide whether a difference is statistically significant. Causality is a complex subject in both philosophy and science. Causality is considered strongly supported when three conditions are met. First, when one variable changes, the others change in predictable ways. Second, we must show that the variable deemed to be the independent (causal) variable occurs, or changes, before the variable that is deemed to be caused undergoes change. Third we must be able to rule out other variables that emerge as candidates for causal status. A Spurious correlation is one that is high but not causal. A major goal of research is to find data that are meaningful and can be generalized beyond one study. Reliable measures are consistent measures that presumably reflect a regularity that occurs in nature. To find out whether something is a reliable finding, we have to do further research under the same methodological conditions as existed in the earlier study. Achieving the same results will give us test-retest reliability. Validity raises the question “Are we measuring what we think we are measuring?” Measures can be accurate and consistent but irrelevant. Self-report studies of workplace deviance can produce what appear to be well-grounded statistics. These studies show much more deviance than is reported through official channels. Social statistics have the following components: 1. Real figure. The real figure represents the actual number of people who engage in a particular kind of deviance, or the total number of deviant acts that occur in a specified time and place. 2. Error component. The error component is caused by over or underreporting. 3. Random errors. Random errors are generally accidental and self- cancelli
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