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Labeling A way to shape our minds

Tan Nguyen English 12 Mr. Markowitz

Thesis: Despite the convenience of labeling in clinical psychology, it creates a negative impact on both individuals and society. I. People with the negative labels are mistreated by the society. A. Mental disordered people are thought to be scary B. Those people are not likely to receive aid from others C. It is impossible to recognize the sane in insane places. D. Mental-ill labeled people are dehumanized. E. Labels can affect people from more informal perspectives, ranging from racist to evaluations. Mislabeling people with mental illness causes them to behave in the ways that one would expect them to behave. A. Labeled someone as deviant can potentially reinforce them to commit more crimes. People bearing certain labels are isolated from society. People who are isolated from society due to labeling (either labeling or mislabeling) have the potential to commit crimes.



Labeling- A way to shape our minds

For many years, labels have been developed as a device to represent mental disorders or criminals. Informally, labels had been used as a way to judge whether someone is smart or stupid, rich or poor, and sometimes black or white. There is a thinking process shared by most of us: someone gets their labels (as criminals) because they committed crimes and therefore got it. Talking about effects of labels on society, Clarence Schrag, a Professor in Sociology at University of Washington, summarized that the labels which were originally established to control deviant actions, however, seem to make the problems related to this matter worse (The future of Page 1). In fact, the common sense shared by most of us that labels can control deviant acts is rather false. The truth is opposite. Labels have a negative impact on both individuals and society. As we grow up, there is a moral standard that gradually forms inside our own conscience. We developed the sense of wrong or right. As time goes by, we realize that the sense whether something is wrong or right is just not enough to evaluate everything because everything happens in different levels. As a result, we developed the idea of deviant act. However, we usually mistake mental illness as deviant. In many forms of culture, deviant acts are usually caused by mental illness. Movies, for example, usually depict mentally ill people as violent and scary. Crimes are usually caused by schizophrenic people and bipolar folks tend to not be able to control their actions. As a result, people tend to unconsciously associate these with mental illness as violent and scary; therefore, those are usually mistreated. The fact that most people associate the labels with their negative impacts creates a lot of hardship for people bearing labels to live harmonically with everyone else. The truth is that those labeled people do not always exhibit their negative symptoms. In fact, if we encourage them to live harmonically, they will try to change their behaviors and try to fit with the society (The Medical Model Page 4). Labels, in fact, are sometimes also the causes for dangerous actions to those who are labeled. Due to moral standards,

those who get the labels believe that when they actually hold the disorders, they are both mentally and physically isolated from their society. As a result of the defense mechanism, which is widely accepted by many psychologists, they will avoid taking the medication as a way to deny the belief that they are not belong the society (Page 4). In fact, according to psychologists, mental disorders can be removed by selfhelp. However, there are only a small percentage of people who actually recover from mental disorders. This fact implies the lack of support from society. This happens as a result of bearing labels. Rather than taking the labels are the indications of mental disorders, people around these labeled men take the labels as a warning. As a result, they get no aid, no courage from other people to fight against the mental illness (Ruscio Page 2). From the clinical perspective, labels can sometimes prevent one from getting the right help. Labels make clinicians underestimate the mental illness. With the presence of the labels, they believe that the disorder is already diagnosed. Therefore, no other necessary diagnosis is necessary (Lain Page 3). Supposed that a patient gets all the supports of people around him, but the clinician diagnosed him as having DID, which the patient shows to have different personalities, instead of schizophrenia which he really gets. He gets help from everyone even the clinician. However, these behaviors from people around him are likely to be the treatment for someone who gets DID but not for schizophrenia. That might help somehow but its not very effective to use against schizophrenia. Moreover, the medications from the clinicians can be dangerous as it is the medication to DID not schizophrenia. This, however, can make the patients disorder worse. There was an experiment carried out by Rosenhan, an American psychologist. In this experiment, fake-mental patients were sent to different mental hospitals at different states. The imposters then have to act normally as they got admitted to those mental hospitals. After few weeks, the staffs in those hospitals, however, failed to recognize those men (Rosenhan Experiment Page 1). In fact, in this case, the labels granted for the imposters are mental illness. The power of labels is so strong that they actually become lenses that shape the way people look at the imposters even when they perform

normal actions (Page 1). The imposters, after the experiment, reported that there was also the sense of dehumanization between them and the staffs in the hospitals (Page 2). The lenses didnt only change the way the staffs perceive the actions of the imposters but altered behaviors and attitudes towards the imposters. The staffs were reported to discuss about the patient using mean words and sentences right in front of the presences of the imposters. They believe that the imposters were mentally ill; thus, they wouldnt understand a word. People behave well to other people accordingly to the moral standard that shared by people in the same society. The fact that the staffs didnt respect the imposters showed that those staffs grouped those imposters into a different group which were powerless and inferior. This happens in a case of an experiment. In fact, the situation in real life is different. If people are granted a label of mental disorders, those mental disorders become a part of their characteristics instead of symptoms. When a label is granted for someone, we will understand that the person has the characteristics as a part of their personalities rather than treating them as they just have a part of the disorders which are not a part of their personalities. Those people will be understood as less likely to change if they are labeled as having a behavior than just describing their behaviors. In fact, most behaviors we have are likely to be taken as a characteristic (Markman Page 2). Because labels and behaviors typically happen at the same time, it is difficult for us to recognize the causes for behaviors (Ruscio Page 2). And when a label is attached to someone, it means that everything is set and justified, and there is nothing can be done about your judgments towards this man. And this man will be automatically considered as different from your society (Page 3). Labels do not only affect mental disordered people. It also affects people who are just different from other people in the society. According to Benjamin Lee Whorf, an American linguist, words we use do not only determine what we want to say but also how we see, and eventually how we act (Alter Page 1). Benjamin notes that at some places, there are people that are able to distinguish two different kinds of snow just because they have two words for two different kinds of snow from their language. We do

not use language as labels to discriminate snow but also human. Jennifer Eberhardt, a professor at Stanford University, carries an experiment to test how the labels affect our perceptions. She shows people the picture of a man who looks both alike black and white people. Half of the student body is told that the man is black; other half is told that the man is white. The professor then tells the students to describe the man. The first group describes the man using negatives words such as dangerous. The second group describes the man with more positive words. Then the students are told to draw the man. The first group draws the man with the attributes of white people while the second group draws the man more like black people (Alter Page 1). The experiment shows how strongly the racial labels can affect the perception process of individuals. The first group as students describes the man as dangerous. In fact, they dont even get to know who that is. So their description on the man is not based on his personalities. Two different groups have two different answers on the same man, so they dont make their judgments on the basis of appearance. The independent variables in the experiment are the labels that the professor provided for two groups. So it is obvious that the label black is the factor that determines the descriptions of the first group. In this world, there are millions more man are regarded as black and they are regarded as dangerous for nothing just like the man in the picture. Most of the time, when people look at a black man, they associate the man with their ancestors. As a result, they match the black mans actions with expectations for his ancestors. Consequently, this will lead to mean actions as responses to those expectations. Another aspect regarding peoples attitudes towards labeled is how deviant actions are formed and regarded. When a person is regarded as deviant, he is unconsciously associated with attributes of difference and pollution. The label deviant is used as a tool to control, limit and prevent people from deviant behaviors. The deviant label contains more than what it seems to say. It implies that: If you proceed this behavior, you will become a member of that group of people, (Vandelay Page 1). This, indeed, is not a good way to control deviant actions. The patients take these labels as reinforcements to

take on their bad behaviors. They think that they have no other choice than to conform to the meaning of the judgments. George Herbert Mead, an American philosopher, sociologist and psychologist, believes that the way we behave is constructed by the way other people interact with us; our behavior is the result of how we interpret others behaviors towards us. If one is expected to be deviant, they will behave in such a way that makes the deviant become true. In psychology there is a theory regarding conformity. It states that human has the tendency to conform to a group of people. If a man is labeled as deviant, they are thought to belong to a group that is also labeled deviant. As a result, they will conform to the group. People who conform to the group take the same actions as every other in the group does. Consequently, the ones who conformed to the group deviant will take deviant actions as a way to harmonize themselves with the group. This theory of deviant actions also applies to mental disorders. Individuals do not only have disorders, they have those in different levels. There is no standard stating that someone has to have certain amount symptoms to be labeled schizophrenia. If we label someone as having schizophrenia when they only exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia, he will eventually get it to fulfill the expectations of people around them. The label of mental illness can stick with a person for life. According to Bernice A. Pescosolido, a professor at Idiana University, people believe that mental illness is an illness that will never go away. Therefore, it is really difficult for a person to come back to their society after actually recovered from the illness. According to American Sociology Association, statistics show that the social rejection probability will increase after others know that an individuals status is that of having a mental illness. According to Howard Becker, an American sociologist, deviant acts are essentially caused by labels. Those people who are considered as rule-breakers accept the labels they are given. They find themselves different from the society. As a result, they will try to fit into a different society where they call their real society. As a result, they view regular people as outside their society. Markman believes that when we labels someone as some disorders, we describe them as having a certain set of behaviors

that is shared by every single one in the group of people who possesses the labels. However, a person who has symptoms of disorders is different from the one who gets those disorders. In reality, we tend to associate people having some symptoms as having the actual disorders. As a result, we usually give the lifelong labels to other people although they might only exhibit some minor symptoms of a certain disorder (Markman Page 1). This tends to isolate people from society as they are labeled as having different characteristics from normal people. Labels were originally designed to prevent deviant action. However, there are evidences suggesting that labels can potentially create crimes. Labels can become excuses for people who commit crimes. They usually justify their actions by saying I do these things because I am this way (Labeling Theory Page 2). One can also employ deviant behaviors as tools for defense, and adjustment to society interaction with him. And the negative attitudes of normal people towards to labeled one provide labeled people with moral support for their crimes. Those labeled ones can reason that they are this way because no one in this society approves their existence. According to Howard Becker and his secondary deviant theory, a person can commit crimes and then improve their crimes through the association with different other people they think to be in the same society (Page 2). George Albee, a pioneer in clinical psychology, believes that society decides the nature of an action and then places a label on you. Overtime, you will unconsciously change your behaviors to fit the labels (The Medical Model Page 5). Self-rejecting can be a result of labels as they isolate people from society. It, however, leads to denial in conventional values and the breakdown of social norms (Vandelay Page 1). Labels appear to be a good tool to control society. However, it is really a way to isolate people and it actually leads people to commit crimes. When one actually put on the shoes of mental disordered people, he will actually understand how it feels when people are labeled, and he will understand what it

means by the sentence: When mental illness are used as labels schizophrenic, manic, or hyperactive these labels hurt, (The Medical Model Page 2).

Works Cited
Lain. The Pros and Cons of Diagnostic Labels in Clinical Psychology. Mental Health (2007): 3. Web. 22 Feb 2011. <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/404747/the_pros_and_cons_of_diagnostic_labels.html?cat =72> Labeling Theory. Wikipedia. 15 Feb 2011. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labeling_theory>. Alter, Adam. Why its dangerous to Label People. Alternative Truths (2010). Psychology Today. Web. 22 Feb 2011. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/alternative-truths/201005/why-its-dangerouslabel-people>. Howard Beckers Labeling Theory. Criminology. Web. 22 Feb 2011. <http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/becker.htm>. The future of Labeling Theory. Criminology. Web. 9 March 2011. <http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/blonberg/thefuture.html>. Rosenhan Experiment. Wikipedia. 15 Feb 2011. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenhan_Experiment>. Markman, Art. Categories, Essences, and Behavior Change. Ulterior Motives. Web. 22 Feb 2011. <http://psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/200910/categories-essences-and-behaviorchange>. The Medical Model of Mental Health and Psychiatric Labeling. Association for Natural Psychology. Web. 10 Mar 2011 <http://www.winmentalhealth.com/mental_illness_stigma_labeling_theory.php>.

Art, Vandelay. Labeling theory in juvenile delinquency: An evaluation. Helium. 15 September 2007. Web. 10 Mar 2011. <http://www.helium.com/items/596339-evaluating-labeling-theory-of-juveniledeliquency>. Ruscio, John. Diagnoses and the Behaviors they denote. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. Web. 10 Mar 2011. <http://www.srmhp.org/0301/labels.html>.