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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1984 May;46(5):1058-68.

External threat and the definition of deviance.


Research ( Lauderdale , 1976; Schachter , 1951) suggests that an external threat to a group can lead to the rejection of deviant members of the group and alteration of group communication patterns and solidarity. This study sought to extend those findings, integrate them with concepts from Simmel 's (1917/1955) work on group conflict, and link them to key issues in the societal reaction approach to deviant behavior. We examined the effect of variation in level of threat, the relationship between deviant status and nonconformity to the central task norm, the role of high-status actors in deviance designation, the relationship between rejection and negative definition of the deviant, and the effects of rejection and negative definition on group solidarity. Hypotheses were tested in an experimental design involving three conditions (strong threat, weak threat, and no threat). The results suggest that (a) the level of threat is directly related to the extent of rejection and negative definition, (b) nonconformity to the central task norm is not systematically related to deviant status, (c) high-status actors are more involved in the rejection of the deviant, (d) sociometric rejection of the deviant is accompanied by negative definition in the strong-threat condition, and (e) the level of group solidarity is related to the extent of rejection and negative definition. Implications of these findings are discussed relative to the societal reaction approach to deviant behavior and analogous processes in other social groups.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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