behavior in terms of broad social conditions is constantly changing. Deviance
is not just a matter of numbers nor is what is less common. Deviant acts are
not necessarily against the law but are considered abnormal and may be regarded
as immoral rather than illegal under the laws of that jurisdiction. An act is
deviant when it appears to be strange and violates social norms. Social norms
are behaviors accepted by either a significant group of people or those with
the power to enforce. These types of deviant acts are meaningful though not considered
to be criminal under the legal definition. While some aspects of personality
may be inherited, psychologists largely see personality as a matter of
socialization and deviance as a matter of improper socialization. Individuals participating
in these types of acts may exhibit a tendency toward antisocial behavior often
linked to criminal behavior. While there is value in both biological and psychological
approaches, each is limited in their explanation of deviance for they only
understand deviance as a matter of abnormality and do not answer the question
of why the things that are deviant are considered deviant in the first place.
Additionally, many jurisdictions are moving to have these deviant behaviors declared
illegal while others are doing the opposite to have them no longer considered


Is knowing/agreeing upon what is and isn’t deviant
behavior important for society? Why or why not?

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control is an attempt to regulate people’s thoughts and behaviors in ways that control
or punish deviance. These negative sanctions are negative social reactions to
deviance. The opposite, are positive sanctions that are affirmative reactions
that are usually in response to conformity. Formal sanctioning of deviance
occurs when norms are written into law, and violation almost always results in
negative sanctions from the criminal justice system. Sociologist Jackson Toby
proposed a theory on crime claiming that such tendencies regarding deviance
were shared equally among all individuals. Furthermore, Toby’s concept of a stake in conformity may serve
to explain what restrains most people from committing a crime. The stake in
conformity is the degree to which individuals are willing to risk by breaking
the law when devoted to traditional society standards. Agreeing on what is considered
deviant behavior is important because studies have shown that stake in
conformity is one of the most important factors in an individual’s decision to
offend. Individuals who are not tied to traditional society standards are more inclined
to take risks and violate. Functionalists and sociologists believe that
deviance can have positive functions for society and plays an important role in
society, such as being used to challenge people’s views. Emile Durkheim explained
that deviance is an essential component of any strong society by concluding that
deviance can serve two necessary functions. It keeps a society stable by
defining the boundaries of acceptable behavior to promote integration by
causing people to feel that they belong to the group or society that supports
those norms. Durkheim also noted that when deviance is punished, societies are
made aware of what is acceptable and reaffirms current social norms, which equally
strengthens a society.                   

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