The Science Behind “Self-Fulfilling Prophesies”

Human Chess

By Chris Simmons

It goes without saying that how one person treats another determines how that individual performs. What is not so well understood, especially by bosses and parents, is the legitimate science behind this occurrence.

An individual’s performance goes up or down, in large part, based upon the expectations levied against him/her. When high expectations are placed on a person, he/she will perform better. This phenomenon is called the Pygalion or Rosenthal Effect.

At the other extreme is the Golem Effect, which occurs when decreased performance results from low expectations.

The Rosenthal Effect takes its name from a study on student performance, while the Pygalion reference is taken from an ancient Greek legend. In the Rosenthal-Jacobson research, elementary school students were given a disguised IQ test. Twenty percent of the schoolchild were then randomly chosen — and for experiment purposes — identified as “peak performers.” The names of…

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