The Pygmalion Effect

Also known as the Rosenthal Experiment. This is a phenomenon where by higher expectations lead to higher performance. This idea is a four step cycle that we can use to greatly impact others around us. Like all cycles, the best way to visually interpret them is with a circle.

A quick breakdown of this cycle. At the top we have Our Beliefs, these are our perceived beliefs that we have about anyone we have interactions with. So our perceived beliefs Influence our actions toward’s the other person or people. This directly Impact’s how the other person(s) thinks about themselves which will Cause the other person(s) to change how they Act or feel towards us, which Reinforces Our Beliefs about the person(s). This is why The Pygmalion Effect is often refereed to as the Self Fulfilling Prophesy.

Robert Rosenthal first created this experiment while working at Harvard. One of the experiment he conducted involved taking volunteers and challenging them to coach rats to get through a maze. He then informed half of the group that there rats were highly intelligent and were specifically trained. The other half of the group were told that their rats were dumb. When in fact all the rats were the same.

During the experiment something interesting occurred. The rats that were said to be smart outperformed the rats that were said to be dumb. The premise being that even though all the rats were the same, the coaches preconditioned expectations of their group of rats changed the outcome of the test by simply having a different expectation of their specific group of rats.

Later on Rosenthal teamed up with Lenore Jacobson, who at the time was an elementary school principle, to create the Pygmalion effect study at the school.

At the beginning of the school year a selected group of teachers were told that some of their students had extraordinary talent and potential. This information was completely made up, and was given about random average students in each class. All the students had done an IQ test in advance so the teachers had no real reason to doubt the information. By the time of the end of the school year, The students who were said to be exceptional scored on average higher on later IQ tests than the rest of the students at the time.

Robert Rosenthal then concluded that ” When we expect certain behaviors out of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur.”

What do you think about this theory? And if you believe it, Is there a way to prevent ourselves from being shaped by others in a negative way? Share you’re comments down below.


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