Deviation in emotion and the labeling of mental illness

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12 Scopus citations


This paper proposes that violations of norms regarding emotion are the primary cues leading to the label of mental Illness. The attribution of mental Illness is made when others' efforts to role‐take with an actor fall. Emotional deviations are seen as a cause of such role‐taking failures. Cognitive deviations such as hallucinations and delusions can also undermine role‐taking efforts. It is however, the emotional deviations which provide the most Important cues for the attribution of mental disorder. Inappropriate emotionality leads others to perceive an actor as unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Unpredictability and dangerousness are characteristics prominent in popular conceptions of mental Illness. The results of an exploratory study evaluating the major propositions forwarded in the paper are presented. These results lend modest support to the contention that violations of norms regarding emotions tend to elicit the label of mental Illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-102
Number of pages24
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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