Deviance and Respectability: An Observational Study of Reactions to Shoplifting

Darrell J. Steffensmeier, Robert M. Terry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


In general, observational field studies dealing with reactions to deviance have lacked the kind of control that allows for experimental manipulation of variables and the systematic examination of posited relationships. In addition, there are few studies dealing with public reactions to deviance. The research reported here consisted of a field experiment in which rigged shoplifting events were enacted in the presence of store customers who were in a position to observe and react to the shoplifting incidents. Three variables were varied as part of the field experiment: (1) appearance of shoplifter, (2) sex of shoplifter, and (3) sex of store customer. Major findings were that sex of shoplifter and sex of store customer had little effect on reporting levels whereas appearance of shoplifter exerted a major independent effect on reporting levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-426
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 1973

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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