Labeling Theory: Why Name-Calling Is Harmful

Labeling Theory: Why Name-Calling Is Harmful

Role Theory and Labeling Theory Go Hand-In-Hand
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“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

Commonly heard on the playground, this phrase has the potential to be inaccurate. Words can harm us emotionally, and they do so in specific processes: labeling theory and role theory.

Labeling theory is defined as people come to identify and behave in ways that reflect how others label them.

Role theory, coincidentally, is defined as the correlation between people acting in predictable patterns in order to fulfill the roles they believe that they must fulfill.

Labeling theory and role theory are based on similar inferences: both assume that people can shape their own identities based on their impressions of what other people want or need of them.

To test out how quickly people would conform to their roles, Philip Zimbardo created a prison simulation in 1973. Zimbardo assigned half the male participants in his study to be prisoners, while the other half of the participants were assigned to be prison guards. They were supposed to act out their roles.

This is when deindividuation, the loss of self-awareness, began. The prisoners were stripped and given prison uniforms. They were given identification numbers and told they were no longer going to be called by their names. Guards were instructed to do whatever they thought was necessary to keep prisoners in line. On the first day, the guards taunted the prisoners and harassed them. The prisoners adopted their roles and began telling on each other to the guards. When the prisoners tried to break out of the jail on the second day, some were beaten and stripped. They were openly mocked by all of the guards, and some lost their beds.

One important finding that Zimbardo noted was that the more the prisoners were dependent on the guards, the more derisive the guards became. The sneering of the guards made the prisoners more submissive. Personal identity in the real world was lost in lieu of the roles that these people now had. The roles became real. The more power a person had over another, the less respectful they were of that person.

When Zimbardo introduced the prisoners to a priest, all the prisoners introduced themselves by their identification numbers instead of their real names. They did not need to use their identification numbers.

Zimbardo decided that the one of the prisoners was too emotionally disturbed to continue with the experiment.

“The psychologists tried to get him to agree to leave the experiment, but he said he could not leave because the others had labeled him a bad prisoner.”

Zimbardo explained that this was just an experiment and that it was over, and the prisoner was better.

The conclusion of the experiment was that people adapt to the social roles given to them by everyone else. When people are given roles, they act in a way that they believe is fulfilling the role.

So when we do name-calling, we are giving someone a social role to adhere to, and when people bully someone and try to make them adhere to a new social role, they may succeed in harming that person. No one should use name-calling in order to gain power over another person. Role theory and labeling theory from Zimbardo's experiment indicate that power imbalances between people can breed disrespect and harm.

Sometimes people advise those who are called by bad names “to own it,” but that is exactly what the victim should not do.

Owning it means adhering to labeling theory and role theory. Our identities should consist of defining ourselves instead of allowing others to detrimentally harm us by trying to give us inferior labels and names.

We are all equal.

Cover Image Credit: KC Poe

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I Am A Female And I Am So Over Feminists

I believe that I am a strong woman, but I also believe in a strong man.
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Beliefs are beliefs, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm all about girl power, but in today's world, it's getting shoved down our throats. Relax feminists, we're OK.

My inspiration actually came from a man (God forbid, a man has ideas these days). One afternoon my boyfriend was telling me about a discussion his class had regarding female sports and how TV stations air fewer female competitions than that of males. In a room where he and his other male classmate were completely outnumbered, he didn't have much say in the discussion.

Apparently, it was getting pretty heated in the room, and the women in the class were going on and on about how society is unfair to women in this aspect and that respect for the female population is shrinking relative to the male population.

If we're being frank here, it's a load of bull.

SEE ALSO: To The Women Who Hate Feminism

First of all, this is the 21st century. Women have never been more respected. Women have more rights in the United States than ever before. As far as sports go, TV stations are going to air the sports that get the most ratings. On a realistic level, how many women are turning on Sports Center in the middle of the day? Not enough for TV stations to make money. It's a business, not a boycott against female athletics.

Whatever happened to chivalry? Why is it so “old fashioned" to allow a man to do the dirty work or pay for meals? Feminists claim that this is a sign of disrespect, yet when a man offers to pick up the check or help fix a flat tire (aka being a gentleman), they become offended. It seems like a bit of a double standard to me. There is a distinct divide between both the mental and physical makeup of a male and female body. There is a reason for this. We are not equals. The male is made of more muscle mass, and the woman has a more efficient brain (I mean, I think that's pretty freaking awesome).

The male body is meant to endure more physical while the female is more delicate. So, quite frankly, at a certain point in life, there need to be restrictions on integrating the two. For example, during that same class discussion that I mentioned before, one of the young ladies in the room complained about how the NFL doesn't have female athletes. I mean, really? Can you imagine being tackled by a 220-pound linebacker? Of course not. Our bodies are different. It's not “inequality," it's just science.

And while I can understand the concern in regard to money and women making statistically less than men do, let's consider some historical facts. If we think about it, women branching out into the workforce is still relatively new in terms of history. Up until about the '80s or so, many women didn't work as much as they do now (no disrespect to the women that did work to provide for themselves and their families — you go ladies!). We are still climbing the charts in 2016.

Though there is still considered to be a glass ceiling for the working female, it's being shattered by the perseverance and strong mentality of women everywhere. So, let's stop blaming men and society for how we continue to “struggle" and praise the female gender for working hard to make a mark in today's workforce. We're doing a kick-ass job, let's stop the complaining.

I consider myself to be a very strong and independent female. But that doesn't mean that I feel the need to put down the opposite gender for every problem I endure. Not everything is a man's fault. Let's be realistic ladies, just as much as they are boneheads from time to time, we have the tendency to be a real pain in the tush.

It's a lot of give and take. We don't have to pretend we don't need our men every once in a while. It's OK to be vulnerable. Men and women are meant to complement one another — not to be equal or to over-power. The genders are meant to balance each other out. There's nothing wrong with it.

I am all for being a proud woman and having confidence in what I say and do. I believe in myself as a powerful female and human being. However, I don't believe that being a female entitles me to put down men and claim to be the “dominant" gender. There is no “dominant" gender. There's just men and women. Women and men. We coincide with each other, that's that.

Time to embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: chrisjohnbeckett / Flickr

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​'When They See Us' Is The Tough Show Nobody Wants To Watch But Everyone Needs To

Justice was not served.

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Netflix just released a limited series called "When They See Us." The series is based on the Central Park Five. The Central Park Five were five young boys who were convicted of raping a woman jogging in Central Park on April 19, 1989. These young boys did not commit the crime they were convicted of though, they were set up by the prosecutor on the case, Linda Fairstein, along with her fellow detectives.

On April 19, 1989, a huge group of boys went out to Central Park one night "wilding." Cops came and arrested a bunch of the boys who were out. Linda Fairstein came to the scene where the rape happened, with the women attacked hanging on for her life. When Fairstein got to the precinct, immediately she said the boys in the park were the perpetrators. She had the police go out into the neighborhoods and find every young, black/Hispanic male who fit a description they drew up and brought them in for questioning.

What the detectives then did was extremely illegal.

They questioned these 14, 15 and 16-year-old boys without their parents. These boys were minors. These detectives took these boys in the rooms for questioning and started to plot a story in their head, making them say they committed the horrific crime. The boys were saying it wasn't them but the detectives would not let down. They started beating the kids until they "admitted" to this act of rape. One of the boys, Antron McCray, was with his mom and dad when they started to question him. Kevin Richardson was questioned without his mom until his sister came and was basically forced to sign the statement the detectives wrote for him so he could go home.

Yusef Salaam's mother came and got her son just before he signed his Miranda rights away. Raymond Santana was coerced by detectives for hours and hours, along with the others. Korey Wise, who was not in the police's interest at first, was taken and beaten by a detective until he agreed to the story they drew up. These boys didn't even know each other, except Yusef and Korey, and were pinning the crimes on one another because they were forced.

Donald Trump was even supportive of bringing back the death penalty for this case. He wanted the death penalty for five teenage boys. Teenagers. The boys were barely in high school and were being attacked with the death penalty.

At the trial, the lead prosecutor, Elizabeth Lederer, called in the victim of the attack, Trisha Meili. Meili had no recollection of the night after being in a coma for several days. The DNA evidence that was presented at trial did not match any of the defendants. There were no eyewitnesses. They showed the recordings of the interviews of the boys, but they were forced into telling false stories, which none of were merely similar. The case had no supporting evidence whatsoever. But the jury still convicted all five boys, who had to serve out their sentences.

The charges were exonerated in 2002 after the real rapist confessed. But exoneration does not make up for what these young boys had to go through. They were tried as adults at the ages of 14, 15 and 16. Korey Wise was in a maximum security prison at the age of 16. These boys went through something they should have never gone through at such a young age. There was no justice served for the boys or the victim. The detectives pinned a crime on five innocent young boys. These boys had been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of actually working to find the real rapist, Linda Fairstein pinned it on five boys and did not do anything by the book while the boys were in question.

The show has brought back outcries about the case, even causing Linda Fairstein to step down from her charity boards. Our justice system still isn't what it should be today, and this show helps with showing us that.

The Netflix series shines a light on the racism of these detectives and the injustice that was served. Ava DuVernay did a tremendous job with this show. It is moving. The four episodes are very hard to watch, but it is so important that you do.

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