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September 1967

A Sociological View of Normality

Author Affiliations

San Francisco
From the Department of Sociology, University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1967;17(3):265-270. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1967.01730270009003

IN REVIEWING what sociologists have to say about normality and abnormality, in their recent book Offer and Sabshin1 remark that sociologists prefer to talk about deviance rather than about abnormality—and indeed, about deviant acts (and how they become defined as deviant) rather than about either deviance as such, or deviant persons. In that tradition we wrote recently2:

The careers of patients within the hospital may be studied in terms of deviance. But we add a qualifying note: The usual sociological conception of deviance is too simple. It assumes a relatively homogeneous institution, with deviant acts in terms of a relatively firm core of norms and standards—and therefore with control mechanisms to handle deviants and deviant acts. We suspect that few large organizations have such homogeneous standards; certainly the hospitals we studied do not. No single set of values dominates either the whole institution