Labeling theory  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Originating in sociology and criminology, labeling theory (also known as social reaction theory) was developed by sociologist Howard S. Becker. Labeling theory (synonymous to "identifying against") holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the linguistic tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from norms. The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping. The theory was prominent in the 1960s and 1970s, and some modified versions of the theory have developed. Unwanted descriptors or categorizations (including terms related to deviance, disability or a diagnosis of mental illness) may be rejected on the basis that they are merely "labels", often with attempts to adopt a more constructive language in its place. Labeling theory is also closely related to interactionism and social construction.

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