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April 26, 2018 / C H Thompson

Deviancy Amplification Spiral

Stanley Cohen researched the social reaction to Mods and Rockers disturbances of 1964 in Brighton. The events of the clash between these two groups were to receive front-page outrage on the national press with reports describing a ‘day of terror’ and an entire town being invaded by a mob ‘hell-bent on destruction.’

However Cohen’s research discovered the typical offences that day had been exaggerated with one journalist admitting that the event had been ‘a little over-reported’ (Cohen, 173, p31). The trouble was the media distortion of initial events resulted in an amplification of youthful deviance both in perceived and real terms.

Cohen termed this process a deviancy amplification spiral and he found this process is always evident where there’s moral panics. The image below illustrates the dynamics of the spiral.

Deviancy amplification spiral

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