Normalization of deviance, according to American sociologist Diane Vaughan, is the process in which deviance from correct or proper behavior or rule becomes culturally normalized.[1]

Vaughan defines the process where a clearly unsafe practice becomes considered normal if it does not immediately cause a catastrophe: "a long incubation period [before a final disaster] with early warning signs that were either misinterpreted, ignored or missed completely".[2][3]

The original example cited by Vaughan is the events leading to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, but the concept has also been applied to aviation safety,[4][5] clinical practice in medicine,[6] and the public's deviance from health measures aimed to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.[7]

Normalization of deviance can exist in conjunction with corporate omerta where deviation from rules is held up by a code of silence surrounding the deviations or an unspoken agreement on rhetoric within a group of executives. One of the reasons Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed was normalization of deviance based on a criticism of corporate omerta with a "culture of silence".[8]

See also


  1. ^ Wilcutt, Terry; Bell, Hal (November 3, 2014). "The Cost of Silence: Normalization of Deviance and Groupthink" (PDF). Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  2. ^ Banja, John (March 2010). "The normalization of deviance in healthcare delivery". Business Horizons. 53 (2): 139–148. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.10.006. PMC 2821100. PMID 20161685.
  3. ^ Vaughan, Diane (January 4, 2016). The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA, Enlarged Edition. University of Chicago Press. pp. 30–1. ISBN 978-0-226-34696-0.
  4. ^ Rosenkrans, Wayne (June 8, 2015). "Normalization of Deviance". Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  5. ^ Albright, James (January 2017). "Normalization of Deviance - SOPs are not a suggestion" (PDF). BSU Aviation.
  6. ^ Price, Mary R.; Williams, Teresa C. (March 2018). "When Doing Wrong Feels So Right: Normalization of Deviance". Journal of Patient Safety. 14 (1): 1–2. doi:10.1097/PTS.0000000000000157. ISSN 1549-8425. PMID 25742063. S2CID 3443064.
  7. ^ Petruzzelli, Emily (2020). "Normalization of Deviance in the Time of COVID-19". Chemical Engineering Progress: 3.
  8. ^ Robison, P., Flying Blind, Doubleday, New York, 2021.