Merton's anomie theory (a theory which tries to relate social stress to deviance) directly pertains to the behavior explanation of factory workers. Merton, a sociologist who was most interested in the study of deviance, breaks society into two immediate groups: 1)those who deviate, and 2) those who do not. After making this division, he immediately asks himself what the cause of this division might be. If one group acts one way, and another group acts another, the difference must be environmental. Thus, he states at the very beginning of his Social Structure and Anomie, "Our primary aim is to discover how some social structures exert a definite pressure upon certain persons in the society to engage in nonconforming rather than conforming conduct". He hypothesizes that if he could discover the groups in society that were subjected to the most pressures, then he could determine which groups were most likely to deviate, "not because human beings comprising them are compounded of distinctive biological tendencies, but because they are responding normally to the social situation in which they find themselves". .
Merton believed that American society put a very high value on monetary success. He labeled the "American Dream" as the initial culprit in deviance. The idea that anyone can succeed in America with hard work, according to Merton, is engrained into our culture but is so far from the truth that it creates a great deal of internal conflict in much of the population. He stresses the point that although there is a lot of time spent working the cultural goals of success into the heads of our population, there is relatively little time spent making sure these goals can be achieved by everyone in our society. This is where Merton's hypothesis achieves its shape. "It is my central hypothesis that aberrant behavior may be regarded sociologically as a symptom of dissociation between culturally prescribed aspirations and socially structured avenues for realizing these aspirations.