Deviancy Amplification has become something of a classic example of an Interactionist approach to deviance, predominantly, but not exclusively, because of Jock Young’s seminal analysis (1971) of “The role of the police as amplifiers of deviance, negotiators of reality and translators of fantasy”.

This is a little ironic given that Leslie Wilkins’ original formulation of an Amplification Spiral (1964) has much more positivistic overtones: for Wilkins, the Spiral (or “Positive Feedback Loop”) both described a particular social process – how control agencies unwittingly create crime through their unwitting actions – and, most importantly, was intended to predict how such behaviour would develop.

While the predictive element is perhaps long-gone (if it actually ever really existed) deviancy amplification remains an important sociological model based on Lemert’s (1951) distinction between primary and secondary deviation.

This PowerPoint representation of the deviancy amplification spiral consists of two slides:

The first displays what I think is Wilkins’ original Spiral formulation and it may, for this reason, appear slightly different to the kind of spiral that gets reprinted in contemporary textbooks (bits tend to get added, removed and altered).

The second overlays the first and focuses on the role of the media in the development of a “classic” amplification spiral. The idea here is to use this slide to introduce / highlight a range of contemporary concepts – from moral entrepreneurs to crusades and clampdowns.

Alternatively, if you prefer the film version of the PowerPoint slide of the book:

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