Conformity and Deviance: Introduction, Biological and Psychological Theory

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  • Universal phenomena
  • Confirmation with norms and values of the society
  • E. g. Abiding by college curriculum to earn a degree
  • Individuals think and act according to the norms of the society
  • Deviance is deviating from the social norms

Biological Theory

  • By Lombroso
  • Individuals are born criminals with certain physical traits
  • It was criticized on the grounds of being a racist theory

Psychological Theory

  • John Bowlby
  • Concept of ‘Chronic Redivists’
  • Different mindset individuals
  • They do not understand consequences in advance, and it leads to crimes
  • Robert Merton presented socio-cultural context of conformity and deviance
  • Deviance should be understood from the viewpoint of social structure
  • Value consensus - when rules fail to operate a situation of normlessness
  • Norms guide the Behaviour
  • In absence of norms deviance is encouraged

Merton՚S Theory

  • A society free of crime is a myth
  • Merton Studied American society
  • Goals are given to individuals like power, earn money called integrated goals
  • Cultural goals and institutionalized norms
  • Emphasis on cultural means to achieve goals
  • American society stresses on success ethos
  • Gap between means and goals known as means-goals discrepancy


  • means of accepted channel
  • Means and goals both accepted
  • Example: getting first rank by working hard

Four Types of Responses of Individuals to Deviance


  • Rejects the means but still tries to achieve the goal
  • Example: Black money


  • Emphasis on means but ignorant towards goals
  • Example: Day dreamers


  • Rejecting both means and goals
  • Withdraw themselves from society
  • Example: Hippies


  • They reject both means and goals
  • Establish new means and goals for the society
  • Example: Revolutionaries
  • Develops structural strain
  • Leads to deviance

To be studied in socio-cultural context and not from individual point of view


  • Society is not a source of deviance believed by many
  • Chicago School developed the ‘Ecological theory of deviance’ which believes that individual born and brought up in particular ecology adapt the norms of the group and become Deviant
  • Sub-cultural theory of deviance believes that there are many subcultures. Culture of one group becomes deviance for the other group
  • Every individual faces some kind of stigma or labelling in their society and act accordingly.


  • Deviation is necessary for preparedness for future
  • But it should not exceed above a certain degree
  • What kind of deviance and how much should be controlled
  • Role of family, institutions, society, etc.


  • Lemert: Primary and Secondary deviance
  • Howard Becker: Labelling theory


Q. 1. Who among the following argued that deviance results not from ‘pathological personalities’ but from the culture and structure of society itself?

(a) A. K. Cohen

(b) R. K. Merton

(c) E. M. Lemert

(d) John Mack

Ans. b

Q. 2. A deviant Behaviour at one time:

(a) will remain so at all times to come

(b) in one society will always be so in all other societies

(c) can become a standard norm at another time

(d) cannot become a standard Behaviour at any time

Ans. (b)

Q. 3. Deviant Behaviour-

(a) has nothing to do with legends

(b) has nothing to do with myths

(c) is usually opposed by legends

(d) is sometimes supported by legends and myths

Ans. (a)




#r. k. merton

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