White trash, jock, stoner, retard, jigaboo, slut, and preppy are labels that society gives people. By labeling individuals or groups of people; do we as a society influence a person's behavior? I believe this is true. However, not everyone that is labeled turns out to be what they have been pinpointed as. Labeling theory is one of many criminological theories that tries to explain a person's behavior. Does labeling a person really have an effect on that person's behavior? Is a person's behavior shaped by social labels? Does labeling a person just reintegrate what society already knows? Labeling theory is a complex theory that explains why people think certain acts and behaviors are deviant and why others are not.
Labeling theory had many contributors to it's existence. Charles Cooley's Human Nature and the Social Order (1902) examined a person's perception of themselves through studies of children and their imaginary friends. Through this study Cooley developed the concept of the looking glass self; in which people imagine how others view them. The main idea of looking glass self is that one defines themselves according to how society perceives them (www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/becker.htm.) George Mead's contributions to labeling theory is the self is a product ones own self perception of social symbols and interaction. This idea shifts the focus away from the individual and looks at how society affects how a person acts. According to Mead, the concept of how people view themselves is a process not a structure (www.criminology.fsu.edu/criminology/lemert.htm). Frank Tannenbaum was possibly the first labeling theorist (http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/301/3011ect12.htm). His main contribution was that of the dramatization of evil. He argued that by labeling an individual evokes the very behavior that is being complained about. He suggested that .
an individual becomes what they are being labeled.