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SCHI again, and my Behaviour of Secondary Deviance

Tomorrow is our SCHI exam (social context of health and illness, see an older post), and so I’ve spent some time reading about medical sociology. It’s really interesting to get to know the different way of thinking in this field (perhaps something to blog about another time), as well as to see how medicine and science are perceived from an external point of view.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about “deviance”, the sociological term for behaviour outside society’s norms. Deviance describes any type of criminal act, but also includes generally strange/morally flawed behaviour – anything that sets you apart from “normality”.

Once deviance has occurred, let’s say a person’s lie has been discovered, society has certain preconceptions about what the deviant person is like… in this case the “liar”. A “liar” will then be treated in a particular way, for example he/she will no longer be trusted. There are many such stereotypes, even for people with red hair (like me)… 😉

Sociologists further distinguish between two types of deviance: primary and secondary.

Primary deviance is the initial instance of deviance, i.e. lying, stealing, looking different, being ill, etc… Secondary deviance describes additional deviant acts that are a result of the first. For example, someone who lied once may eventually become a a liar, act like a liar, because he/she knows that others think of him/her as such now. Secondary deviance is to behave according to the stereotype associated with the deviant act. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Having this stuff in my head, I’ve noticed over the past few days that I display behaviour of secondary deviance, too!

Many have heard me whinge in the past few months about how I’m annoyed about how the students are treated around here (see previous post). On many occasions here in Cambridge, students are not taken seriously, not treated professionally, easily patronised or talked down to. According to the SCHI teachings, being a student is the primary deviance.

Now onto the secondary deviance: When I arrived here fresh from the real world, I treated the people I encountered in my new student life just as professionally as I was used to deal with people in my previous job. This week I noticed that this has changed…. I found myself acting like a stubborn teenager! I arrived late, refused to cooperate and was intentionally unprepared, so that I could be “as dumb as they want me to be”… really, why bother?

Then it dawned on me: this is definitely secondary deviance – I was treated like a child, so why act like an adult?

Of course, I put a stop to my secondary deviance at once. After all, I should try to keep up the standards.

But nevertheless, I acknowledge the sociologists for giving me this insight – thank you SCHI!!!


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