The term labeling as it is applied in the human sciences refers to the social process of providing a descriptor (usually a single word or short phrase) to identify and categorize people who vary so significantly from the norm that they garner attention. Throughout society, this process is fairly commonplace. By observing someone perform within a specific context and noting features of the individual’s behavior and demeanor, people have a propensity to use a label as mental shorthand. For example, someone who becomes angry at a service counter, glares at the cashier, raises his or her voice, and abruptly leaves the store may be labeled as a “hothead” by other customers. Whether this label is accurate or appropriate is beside the point; it is ...

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