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Deviance In Behavior

Deviance is the act of behaving in a way that is not usual or not accepted. Deviance can be relative to time and space since what is considered deviant in one social context may not be in another (Adler & Adler, 18). In this activity, I chose the act of knocking on my door. This is because knocking on one’s door is viewed as a violation of folkways. Folkways include manners, etiquette, and customs. Knocking on my door brought out a number of different reactions from those I was interacting with.

In my first experiment, I had invited a friend to my place and on reaching the doorstep, I knocked on the door. She stared at me in disbelief then started laughing. I knocked on the door once more, she stopped laughing and asked me if I was fine. In this scenario, my act was normal but inappropriate, therefore, deviant. Reactions play a critical role in behavior. In most cases, negative reactions are clear signals that deviance has occurred. In my case, my friend first thought that I was trying to be hilarious but when I repeated the act, she thought there was something wrong with me.

In many cases, deviance arises from controls of society. The society has set different behaviors as acceptable and others as unacceptable. However, this varies with different cultures and orientation. For instance, in my second act I invited a classmate to my place that had never been there before. I knocked on my door and observed to see her reaction, but there was none. On opening the door with my key, she asked me if I had been expecting to find my housemate. In this case, the act is not considered deviant. My classmate probably assumed that I was knocking on my door out of respect for my housemate’s privacy. However, had she been aware that I stayed alone, her reaction would have been different.

A normal act can become deviant depending on where and how it is performed. In my case, knocking on a door is normal but knocking on my door is not usual and thus deviant.  However, behaviors are learned and if I were to continue with the act for a long time, those I interacted with would eventually get accustomed to it.  A normal act can become deviant when done at the wrong time or place (Curra, 7). There are several responses and consequences to deviant behavior. The severity of the response or consequence to deviance depends on the level of deviance. For instance, the judgment posed on primary deviance varies to that of secondary deviance. Primary deviance is when one performs a deviant act for the first time while secondary deviance is a result of being labeled deviant. In the first experiment, on knocking on my door for the first time, my friend found it hilarious but when I repeated the act she felt like something was wrong with me.

According to Emile Durkheim’s theory, there are several functions of deviance. Deviance sets cultural values and norms, defines moral boundaries, brings people together and influences social change (Adler & Adler, 73). Since behavior is learned, when a behavior is first considered deviant, and it is repeated with the same judgment, the society starts viewing it as deviant. There are two types of deviant acts: formal deviance and informal deviance. Formal deviance is when one violates the formally enacted laws of a society, for example, robbery, murder, rape, and assault. Informal deviance is the violation of social norms that have not been codified into law, for example, belching loudly. The act of knocking on one’s door is an informal deviant behavior. The consequences of engaging in formal deviance are more severe that those of informal deviance since formal deviance involves breaking enacted laws.

Different individuals have various reasons for engaging in deviance. The feeling that comes with performing a deviant act depends on the reasons for the act (Curra, 36). In my case, I felt a bit uncomfortable knocking on my door. I was very worried about the kind of judgment passed on me by my friends. If my neighbors were to witness the act, they would have probably thought I was insane. This also indicates that one’s feeling when engaging in deviance is also influenced by how the society judges that act. A person committing robbery for the first time would feel scared and uncomfortable. This feeling would be due to worrying about the consequences of imprisonment if caught. However in cases of secondary deviance, one would be more comfortable since the behavior has been learned. When one is performing a deviant act for valid reasons, he or she would probably feel more at ease. For example, when one is demonstrating against a certain law, he or she would feel at ease knowing it is the right thing to do.

I expected that those interacting with me during the experiment would be surprised by my act. This is because normally in society, one is not expected to knock on his or her door. My friend first found it hilarious because she probably thought I was just trying to be funny. However when I repeated the act for the second time she probably thought I was confused, or there was something wrong with me because a normal person does not knock on her door. In the second experiment, I did not expect my classmate to react in a negative way since she had never been to my place neither did she know whether or not I was staying alone. In cases where the reaction is positive, deviance has not occurred. The worst thing that would have probably happened is if one of the neighbors had observed the act from far and thought strangers were on my doorstep and called the security guards. This shows that the severity of the consequences depends on the level of deviance.

Deviance is, therefore, engaging in an act that is not socially accepted or inappropriate. It is clear that deviance sets moral boundaries since people are expected to behave in ways that are not deviant. The consequences of deviance vary in different cultural settings since what is considered deviant in one culture may not be in another (Adler & Adler, 19). It also promotes social unity as the society is able to come together and condemn certain behaviors thus promoting good behavior that ensures peaceful coexistence. Deviance is thus, relative to time and place. In my case, if I had been knocking on someone else’s door the act would have been normal since it is an act of respect. However, knocking at my door is deviant since I had the keys and authority to open the door. This being an act of informal deviance, the judgment passed by society is minor compared to formal deviance.

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