Sociology Index


Amplification of Deviance refers to the unintended outcome of moral panic or social policies designed to prevent or reduce deviance or deviant behavior. Amplification of Deviance or Deviancy Amplification Spiral refers to an exaggerated cycle of reporting on particular antisocial behavior. The two main testable hypotheses of labeling theory, the “status characteristic hypothesis” and the “deviance amplification hypothesis,” are derived from the conflict perspective and the symbolic interactionist tradition, respectively. Because of amplification of deviant behavior, insignificant problems gain significance and uncommon events begin to look common. Media keeps people motivated and informed on such events. The 'deviancy amplification spiral' glamorizes and increases deviant behavior by making it acceptable.

Developed by Leslie Wilkens, Social Amplification of Deviance is used more frequently in Britain. In Folk Devils and Moral Panics, Stanley Cohen wrote that moral panics usually include a deviancy amplification spiral. Certain groups periodically become the focus of moral panics. They are labelled as being outside the central core values of our consensual society and as posing a particular threat to them.

The 'central core values' which such groups transgress against are argued to be the norms and values which serve the interests of the dominant classes. Typically, the attention given to deviance by the media and moral entrepreneurs serves to attract new recruits and provides them with a definition of what the public expects, thus amplifying the amount of deviance in society.

African Delinquency as Social Amplification of Deviance - G Houchon.
Abstract: Labeling effects arising from inappropriately criminalized behaviors, from the discretionary practices of arrest and prosecution authorities, and the absence of diversion alternatives. Particularly in the cultural milieu of African communities, judges should not be making disposition decisions regarding status offenders or status offence and other less serious forms of juvenile deviance.

Labeling the Labelers: A Quasi-Experiment Examining the Deviance Amplification Hypothesis at the Organizational-Level. Ward, Jeffrey. Abstract: This paper focuses on the latter hypothesis and extends the labeling framework to the organizational-level. “What happens to the organization after being labeled?” Do organizations that are labeled amplify their deviant behavior? This paper tests the amplification of deviance hypothesis at the organizational-level using a quasi-experiment design.

African Delinquency as Social Amplification of Deviance. It finds labeling effects arising from inappropriately criminalized behaviors, from the discretionary practices of arrest and prosecution authorities, and the absence of diversion alternatives.

Religiosity and Delinquency over Time: Deviance Deterrence and Deviance Amplification. - Peek, Charles W.; And Others, Social Science Quarterly. Abstract: Religiosity deters self-reported delinquent conduct in a national panel of White high school males interviewed as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. However, decreases from high sophomore religiosity are associated with greater senior delinquency.


Labeling theory argues that formal processing by the juvenile justice system is part of a deviance amplification process that ultimately results in increased delinquent activity. But critics point out that a higher rate of future offending among those referred to court, often interpreted as evidence supporting the amplification of deviance argument, could be nothing more than a selection artifact.

This article discusses approaches for testing the deviance amplification argument against the alternative hypothesis of a selection artifact. Labeling theorists contend that social reactions to initial or primary deviance may restrict one's ability to maintain a conventional lifestyle. This process, described by Frank Tannenbaum as the "dramatization of evil," increases the likelihood that the labeled person will become more involved in and committed to a deviant line of activity than he or she was before the labeling experience.

Aggregation and amplification of marginal deviations in the social construction of personality and maladjustment
GIAN VITTORIO, Philip Zimbardo.
Abstract: Some social maladjustment in children is understood from a new perspective focusing on the cyclical interaction between personality variables and social psychological processes in the development of risk mechanisms. A profile of originally marginal deviations between a child and peers on selected behavioural tasks and personality functioning is a risk indicator of eventual significant perturbations in social adjustment.