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Deviance is defined as any violation of norms, whether the infraction is as minor as driving over the speed limit, as serious as murder. According to sociologist Howard S. Becker It is not the act itself but the reactions to the act that make some thing deviant.

According to Horton and Hunt deviance is given to any failure to conform to customary norms.

Louise Weston defines deviance as behavior that is contrary to the standards of conduct or social expectations of a given group or society.

M.B Clinard suggests that the term deviance should be reserved for those situations in which the behavior is in a disapproved direction and of sufficient degree to exceed the tolerance limit of society.

Different groups have different norms, what is deviant to some is not deviant to others. This principle holds both within a society and across cultures. Thus another group within the same society may consider acts acceptable in one culture or in one group within a society deviant in another culture.

This principle also applies to a specific form of deviance known as crime the violation of rules that have been written into law. In the extreme, an act that is applauded by one group may be so despised by another group that it is punishable by death. Making a huge profit on business deals is one example where Americans like Donald Trump and Warren Buffet are admired. In China, however, until recently this same act was considered a crime called profiteering. Those found guilty were hanged in a public square as a lesson to all.

Sociologists use the term deviance to refer to any act to which people respond negatively. When sociologists use this term, it does not mean that they agree that an act is bad, just that people judge it negatively. To sociologists all of us are deviants of one sort or another, for we all violate norms from time to time.

Sociologist Erving Goffman (1963) used the term stigma to refer to characteristics that discredit people. These include violations of norms of ability (blindness, deafness, mental handicaps) and norms of appearance (a facial birthmark, a huge nose) etc.

Secret deviants are people who have broken the rules but whose violation goes unnoticed or, if it is noticed, prompts those who notice to look the other way rather than reporting the violation.

Witch-hunt is a campaign to identify, investigate, and correct behavior that has been defined as undermining a group or country. Usually this behavior is not the real cause of a problem but is used to distract people's attention from the real cause or to make the problem seem manageable.

The falsely accused are people who have not broken the rules but are treated as if they have. The ranks of the falsely accused include victims of eyewitness errors and police cover-ups; they also include innocent suspects who make false confessions under the pressure of interrogation.

Sociologist Kai Erikson (1966) identified a particular situation in which people are likely to be falsely accused of a crime: when the well-being of a country or a group is threatened. The threat can take the form of an economic crisis a moral crisis a health crisis or a national security crisis. At times like these, people need to identify a clear source of the threat. Thus, whenever a catastrophe occurs, it is common to blame someone for it.