"Whether you think you can, as if you think you can't, in both cases you're right" Henry Ford
- 1 What is the Pygmalion Effect?
- 2 The legend of Pygmalion
- 3 Social experiments that demonstrate the theory
- 4 Creating expectations of the Pygmalion Effect
- 5 Tips to avoid the negative effects of Pygmalion Effect
What is the Pygmalion Effect?
The theory of Self-fulfilling prophecy tells us that when we have a firm belief about someone, it ends up being fulfilled, since our behavior is consistent with the beliefs we affirm. It is also called "Pygmalion Effect" and its origin is found in the following legend:
The legend of Pygmalion
For a long time Pygmalion, King of Cyprus, had sought a wife whose beauty matched her idea of the perfect woman. Finally he decided that he would not marry and devote all his time and the love he felt within himself to the creation of the most beautiful statues.
The king did not like the women he saw, and he lived alone for a long time. Tired of the situation he was in, he began to sculpt a statue of a woman with perfect and beautiful features. Thus, he made the statue of a young woman, whom he called Galatea, so perfect and so beautiful that he fell in love with her. He dreamed that the statue came alive. The king was attracted to his own work, and he couldn't stop thinking about his beloved ivory.
In one of the great celebrations in honor of the goddess Venus that was celebrated on the island, Pygmalion begged the goddess to give life to her beloved statue. The goddess, who was willing to attend to it, raised the flame of the sculptor's altar three times higher than that of other altars. Pygmalion did not understand the signal and went home very disappointed. Upon returning home, he looked at the statue for hours. After a long time, the artist got up, and kissed the statue. Pygmalion no longer felt the icy ivory lips, but felt a soft, warm skin on his lips. He kissed her again, and the statue came to life, falling madly in love with its creator. Venus finished pleasing the king by granting her lover the gift of fertility.
The eminent American sociologist Robert Rosenthal, uses this Greek myth to explain the importance of expectations on people, things, situations or even ourselves, so that they end up becoming a reality. Today we know it as the Self-fulfilling Prophecy.
Social experiments that demonstrate the theory
Rosenthal did an experiment that consisted of tell teachers at a school that certain students, chosen at random, were brilliant. A year later they tested all the students and those children supposedly "bright", obtained better results.
Another interesting study is the one that was carried out in a town in Central Ghana called Ashanti. In that town, each child at birth receives a spiritual name that is based on their day of birth. On the other hand, every day is associated with a set of personality traits. Those born on Monday are called Kwadwoy, and are traditionally considered to have a calm and peaceful personality. Children born on Wednesday are known as Kwaku, and they are supposed to have bad behaviors. A psychologist decided to study whether this early label could have a long-term impact on self-image and, therefore, on children's lives. To do this, he examined the frequency with which both names appeared in the records of the Juvenile Courts for committing a crime. And indeed the result of the investigation showed that the name given to a child at birth affected his behavior, since there was a remarkable superiority of criminals with the name of Kwaku (to those who predicted misconduct) than Kwadwo (the peaceful ones).
Can we extract that the superstition that the name influences the personality is fulfilled?
Certainly not, what influences are the expectations we have about a certain person.
The creation of expectations of the Pygmalion Effect
So the self-fulfilling prophecy lives up to its name when we can see that on many occasions the expectations that some people formulate with respect to others are met, and especially if we consider them important to us.
In the same way, When we ensure that a certain circumstance will produce a negative result (a business, a relationship, etc.), we ourselves take care that this is so., it is as if our thought is directed towards that result, and we orient all our actions in that sense.
It is actually a automatic feedbackWe believe that something is going to happen in a certain way and we act as if that were true, which offers much more probability of its occurrence.
Equally, when a positive outcome is predicted, all the individual's forces move towards their achievement, so you are much more likely to get it.
Tips to avoid the negative effects of Pygmalion Effect
The truth is that it can be difficult to deliberately change our expectations towards others. But we we can consciously change our behavior. By adopting the set of behaviors, we will be influencing how our children, our students or our employees use their potential, and we can make this potential go beyond what we assume.
For this reason it is essential that parents, teachers and adults in general do an exercise of self exploration that allows us to discover what are the real expectations that we put towards the other, and why.
High expectations will promote greater achievement. It is not an act of magic, it is simply an act of inspiration. Because higher expectations lead teachers (or other authority figures) to act differently in regard to each other, and this in the classroom with children can be done in four ways:
- Creating a warmer and more welcoming socio-emotional climate for students, considering their high potential, and transmitting that heat through nonverbal cues: a gesture, a breath of breath, a touch on the shoulder ...
- Teaching more things without fear and helping them discover for themselves, this students find it especially interesting.
- If they give up, offer them more time and encourage other students to help them to contribute to peer growth.
- Customize verbal language towards students, especially those with greater performance difficulty being more detailed and more personalized, not something as generic as saying at any given time "Good job".
Being able to express ourselves at all levels: what we say, how we say it, our body expression, tone of voice, etc. It is of great importance when it comes to achieving positive feedback from others. If we want to get the best out of a son, a student or another person, let's not limit him with a negative speech, with reproaches or attitudes of lack of confidence, because the only thing we will achieve is to strengthen this belief and meet the negative expectations we had.