Explaining Positive Deviance: Becker’s Model and the Case of Runners and Bodybuilders

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Keith Ewald Department of Development, State of Ohio

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Robert M. Jiobu The Ohio State University

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This research explores the topic of “positive deviance,” that is, behavior which is pronormative but becomes deviant when pursued with an intensity and extensity going beyond conventional bounds. An application of Becker’s original explanation for marijuana smoking was adapted to the cases of serious, but not champion, long-distance runners and bodybuilders. Questionnaire data on 72 bodybuilders and 136 long-distance runners were analyzed using factors analysis and Guttman analysis. For runners, three dimensions were discovered and named “experience,” “sensation,” and “enjoyment.” Guttman analysis suggested that the three dimensions formed a sequence supporting the Becker model. No support for the model was found among the bodybuilders’ data. Reasons why the model might not apply to activities such as bodybuilding were discussed. Overall, it was concluded that the Becker model does explain socialization into positive deviance but that the conditions under which it does so must be further documented.

Direct all correspondence to Robert M. Jiobu, Dept. of Sociology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
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