Behavior: The Carnie and the Mark

With their loud and gaudy midways, their sad freak shows and crooked games, America's traveling carnivals have spawned a rich catalogue of literature. Now, following a familiar chronology, behavioral scientists have moved in to analyze what journalists and other lay observers have long sensed. Carnivals, say the sociologists and psychologists, offer a valid test for theories about the organization of subcultures. Nightmare Alley has an orderly social system, with its own lingo, hierarchy and behavior patterns.

That system is described in the current Journal of Popular Culture, an issue devoted chiefly to U.S....

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