Social Learning Theory

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Labeling theory and social learning theory are two theories that may be compared and contrasted because the theories are somewhat similar but still differ. Although these theories have their similarities and differences, one theory may prove to be more convincing in terms of giving a better account for crime and having better theory-related policies that would best help to decrease crime rates. Under labeling theory, criminal behavior is based on the state stamping the behavior as criminal, instead of criminal behavior being based on the harm that it causes. Thereafter, labels are influenced by society’s reactions. Lemert formulated this theory with emphasis on the importance of identity. He developed two types of deviance, primary and secondary.…show more content…
Nevertheless, the theories possess similar characteristics. For instance, the theories’ cyclical nature overlap. Social learning theory also assumes that people are molded into a criminal or a non-criminal since people end up in one group or the other based on people learning through social interactions. This is likened to how people embrace criminal roles and break laws in the self-fulfilling prophecy under labeling theory. If a person breaks the law and he/she is jailed or imprisoned, society stigmatizes the person and the person internalizes the stigma, which allows the person to be encouraged to act out their expected role as a criminal. The prophecy fulfills itself when after taking on the role, the person breaks the law and the cycle begins again, just like how people become criminals through learning in group social interactions. Additionally, the likelihood of people engaging in deviant behavior increases when people link themselves to others who expose them to deviant behaviors, when the problematic behavior is repeatedly encouraged through reinforcement over conventional behavior or models. This idea from social learning theory is closely related to the idea of labeling theory’s concept that the formal and informal application of stigmatizing and deviant “labels” or tags applied to an individual by society will not deter, but rather instigate future deviant or criminal acts. Essentially, both labels and…show more content…
Labeling theory makes no attempt to understand why an individual initially committed a crime, which limits the scope of its explanations and suggests that the theory may not provide a better account for crime. Labeling theory emphasizes the negative effects of labeling, which gives the offender a victim status. Also, the theory fails to explain why people commit primary deviance in the first place before they are labeled; the same likelihood exists for developing a criminal career regardless of deviance being primary or secondary. Labeling theorists are also only interested in understanding the aftermath of an individual getting caught committing a crime and society attaching a label to the offender. This differs from the view of social learning theory, which seeks to explain the first and subsequent criminal acts. Many also argue that the racial, social, and economic statuses of the individual create labels, as opposed to criminal acts; this theory then fails to acknowledge that those statuses may factor into the labeling process. As a result, the above suggests that labeling theory does not provide a good account for crime and appropriately has little empirical support. Moreover, in terms of policy implications, labeling theory implies a policy of radical

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