Psychology Essay Example: Defining Deviance

Published: 2019-11-07
Psychology Essay Example: Defining Deviance
Categories:  Psychology Social psychology
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 860 words
8 min read

According to Schalleger and Humphrey (2012), not every form of deviance is bad. That is, a deviant can be positive. Therefore, positive deviance refers to those behaviors that do exceed normative standards in virtuous ways. Heckert and Heckert identify four characteristics of positive deviant. They include altruism, charisma, supra-conformity, innovation and innate. Altruism refers to actions that one undertakes with the intention of benefitting others without expecting any reward. In the movie Seven Pound, the leading actor engages in some positive deviants (Humphrey & Schmalleger, 2012). The movie Seven Pounds does pit good against evil or right against wrong. It only brings out scenarios that blend the existing boundaries between what is right and evil within the context of Ben Thomass life situations. The movie revolves around rare situations involving ethical and moral decisions against the universal laws that govern our society. While Ben Tomas loses seven lives of his family members in a car accident, he chooses to repay back those lives by saving back seven lives as a way of seeking redemption.

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There are many stances where Ben Thomass actions are regarded as positive deviance. The first positive deviance he commits is altruism when he donates seven major organs of his body to seven dying individuals with the intention of changing their lives. Ben gives his liver to a social worker who then refers his abused wife and children to him for help. He also gives Emily Posas, a woman who has a rare blood type and is on the brinks of dying of a worsening heart disease a tax break against The US laws. Unfortunately, it is against the US laws for a single patient to donate more than one organ. Moreover, he passes the depression screening test for donors and indication that Ben is in his right senses when his decision is questioned by id doctor friend known as Dan. Ben affirms the viewers that he is acting out of altruism when he tells Emily that he gets the feeling that she deserved his help when Emily asked why he was doing her a big favour.

Secondly, Ben Thomas impersonates his brother who is an IRS officer by stealing his credentials. He then accesses illegally accesses the governments tax database and proceeds to provide Emily Posas with an extended tax break. Two forms of dilemma manifest in this situation. First, is the stealing of his brothers IRS identification, which is an act of theft and the second is the committing of crimes with his brothers identification by giving unauthorised tax breaks. Bens actions are acts of disobedience to the existing laws. However, he does not break the law to instil harm on Emily but to serve a useful purpose. Had he not stolen his brothers identification, Ben would not have been able to complete his mission and without the tax break Emily would have lost her house. Though the moral grounds for impersonation is acceptable, Ben pushes his agenda further when he commits suicide. Due to altruism, Ben exercises an extreme degree of loyalty towards Emily the woman he falls in love with, and other six individuals. According to Heckert and Heckert, Ben applies hyper- responsibility for his commitment to attain his goal of redemption is unwavering. He depicts a character of super-conformity by thriving to achieve the highest standards of social norms (Humphrey & Schmalleger, 2012).

Another act of positive deviance is when Ben signs deeds with the intention of helping Connie escape from her abusive husband. He illegally operates out of his authority. Moreover, through his charisma, he convinces Holly to disclose some privileged information from her workplace. Despite risking losing her job, Holly is persuaded by Ben to provide him with such sensitive information for the greater good of helping improve the lives of Tepos, Connie and their children. For instance, after a brutal encounter with her husband in one particular night, Connie and her children were able to move out of the house. In such case, I think Ben Thomas behavior can be categorized into over-conformity to normative behavior as a positive deviance, a typology described by Heckert and Hekerts. It is because the action of Ben of donating seven organs is imaginable and cannot be achieved by an average man. His approach to redemption can be termed as extreme. Moreover, it is compounded with an extraordinary form of sacrifice and belief to the course. Such characteristic depicts that of a martyr (Humphrey & Schmalleger, 2012).

In conclusion, though Ben Thomas engages in various acts of criminalities, his actions can be regarded as positive deviance. It is because he does not engage in actions that harm individuals. Instead, they are intended to help them. As s deviant, he exceeds the typical set values of the society. For instance, he decides to donate seven organs to seven people at ago. He commits suicide against the US laws with the intention of saving seven lives. He also impersonates his brother who is an ISR to save Emily from losing her house.


Humphrey, J. A., & Schmalleger, F. (2012). Deviant behaviour. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Seven Pounds. (2016). Retrieved 26 September 2016, from

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