A label is a piece of paper, polymer, cloth, metal, or other material affixed to a container or article, on which is printed a legend, information concerning the product, addresses, etc. A label may also be printed directly on the container or article.Labels have many uses: product identification, name tags, advertising, warnings, and other communication.
Without labels the world would be blind to what is really in that wine bottle or soda can. The “perceived” certainty that labels evoke within each us should be managed carefully. Some labels are not descriptive and in some cases inspire each of us to become intellectually lazy to the level of dismissal. In a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, we have water, mushrooms, vegetable oil, modified food starch, wheat flour, monosodium glutamate, soy protein concentrate, yeast extract, spice extract and dehydrated garlic. Does knowing the ingredients make it more appealing?
When using label as verb, dismissal is even more prevalent. Labeling theory holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from standard cultural norms. The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping. Unwanted descriptors or categorizations – including terms related to deviance, disability or a diagnosis of mental illness – may be rejected on the basis that they are merely “labels”, often with attempts to adopt a more constructive language in its place.
Labeling can be used to gain understanding of the labelee. Do the labels of “victim”, “homosexual”, “crazy”, “alcoholic”, “single-parent” or “minority” cause you to want to learn more or to embrace the surface meaning of the label? The positive pyschology of using labels should be to inspire that “natural” curiosity to calm your mind by learning more versus using the label as a means for a quick dismissal.
The next time you have a cup of cream of mushroom soup, you can think about what monosodium glutamate is and wikipedia it or enjoy the soup without guilt or worry. As for labeling people, your choice is to learn more with the intent to bond or with the intent of distancing. You pick…