Retreatism: Definition, Modes & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Risky Shift Phenomenon in Psychology: Definition & Examples

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 What Is Retreatism?
  • 1:40 Five Modes of Adaptation
  • 3:02 Examples of Retreatism
  • 4:11 Leson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ryan Hultzman
In this lesson, we will explore the idea of retreatism and how it can lead people to abandon social norms and withdraw from mainstream society. Then you can test your new knowledge with a fun quiz!

What Is Retreatism?

Evan is a senior in college studying psychology. He hopes to help mentally unstable people some day. On his way to class, he notices that a crowd has gathered in the quad. As he gets closer to the group, he can hear Preacher Bob talking about some conspiracy theory. Evan can't help but chuckle. Preacher Bob is one of the well-known homeless guys who hangs around campus. A lot of people think he is annoying, and some students claim that he is on drugs. Evan thinks he is intriguing. He met him one night while waiting for the bus. Turns out Preacher Bob wanted to be a lawyer at one point, before he realized he didn't want to be part of 'the system,' as he says. He dropped out of school and disassociated himself from his family soon after that. He now lives on the streets, actively denouncing the American Dream and lecturing on the dangers of chasing it to anyone who will listen.

In this story, we have two people living very different lives. Evan is a college student following a very traditional path in American society. He is completing his college education in the hopes of obtaining a fulfilling career afterward. Preacher Bob is the opposite of Evan. He has withdrawn from society and does not participate in trying to achieve the same goals. Preacher Bob's lifestyle is best described as retreatism, a concept that describes a person renouncing society's traditional ideas of success and the ways of achieving it by withdrawing from the community.

Five Modes of Adaptation

The term retreatism belongs to a larger classification model used to distinguish how individuals adapt to cultural norms and values. This model was created by sociologist Robert K. Merton. Merton was interested in deviance, or the act of breaking social norms. At that point in history, Merton believed that the United States was not presenting society with the correct means for everyone to achieve success. As a result, this left some people feeling constrained, and they often turned to nontraditional methods to obtain these social values. It was from this idea that Merton developed the five modes of adaptation. This model purposed five different ways that a person could either accept or reject social goals. These methods include:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account