Just Sociology

The Power of Expectations: Understanding the Pygmalion Effect

The Pygmalion Effect is a psychological phenomenon that illustrates how expectations can influence the performance of an individual. The effect is named after the Pygmalion myth, where a sculptor falls in love with his creation and it comes to life.

The term was coined by Robert Rosenthal in 1968, and the effect is more commonly known as the Rosenthal effect. The Pygmalion Effect suggests that if someone is expected to perform well, there is a good chance they will.

Conversely, if someone is expected to perform poorly, there is a high likelihood that they will do exactly that. The notion of high expectations leading to better outcomes originated from George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion.

The Pygmalion Effect was demonstrated in an experiment conducted in the 1960s, known as the Pygmalion Effect experiment. The experiment was carried out in an elementary school, where children were selected randomly to undergo an IQ examination.

Teachers were then informed of which students were “intellectual bloomers,” although these “intellectual bloomers” were chosen at random. The teachers’ expectations of these selected students were high, and they were given extra attention and care as a result.

When the students were tested again later in the year, the “intellectual bloomers” had shown significant improvements in their IQ scores. The Pygmalion Effect is observed when people adjust their behavior in response to their expectations.

The effect is a self-fulfilling prophecy, where expectations influence behavior, which leads to results that confirm those expectations. Expectations can lead to positive or negative outcomes, depending on the nature of those expectations.

For example, if a teacher expects a student to perform poorly, the student may become demotivated, resulting in poor academic work. However, a teacher who expects their student to do well may provide the necessary support and encouragement, thus enabling the student to perform well.

Thus, high expectations can lead to better performance, whereas low expectations can result in poor results. Examples of the Pygmalion Effect in action have been observed in many workplace settings.

For instance, an insurance agency conducted an experiment where sales agents were divided into two groups those with high expectations and those with low expectations. The agents with high expectations were told that they were the top performers and were expected to maintain their status, while the other agents were told that they were the worst performers and were expected to improve.

The agents with high expectations increased their productivity, whereas the other agents’ performance deteriorated. The categorization of agents into “top performers” and “worst performers” influenced their mindset and behavior, leading to poor results for the latter.

In this instance, the positive challenges and expectations acted as a virtuous cycle that fostered good performance, while poor expectations led to poor results. The Pygmalion Effect can be applied effectively in various situations, such as in workplace settings, educational institutions or personal relationships.

Leaders who are aware of the Pygmalion Effect can use it to their advantage by setting optimistic expectations for their subordinates. They should also be aware of their subordinates’ strengths and weaknesses and provide them with specific and timely feedback.

Praising and recognizing good performance can motivate subordinates to exceed expectations, whereas criticism can scaffold growth and improvement. Related concepts to the Pygmalion Effect include labeling theory, the Golem Effect, and self-fulfilling prophecy.

Labeling theory proposes that students may be influenced by teachers’ expectations of them, resulting in the fulfillment of the expectations, either positively or negatively. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that may affect educational outcomes.

The Golem Effect refers to the negative consequences that can arise from low expectations. The effect occurs when those low expectations lead to behavior that confirms those beliefs, resulting in poorer performance.

Self-fulfilling prophecy concerns how beliefs can affect outcomes. What one expects can influence what they believe, which can in turn fuel the motivation to work towards that goal and achieve better outcomes.

In conclusion, the Pygmalion Effect demonstrates how expectations can influence outcomes. Expectations can have positive or negative effects, depending on whether the expectations are optimistic or pessimistic.

The Pygmalion Effect can be useful in various situations like educational, personal, and workplace environments. It is also linked to other concepts, such as labeling theory, the Golem Effect, and self-fulfilling prophecy, that all emphasize the importance of expectations, beliefs, and outcomes in different contexts.

Leaders, teachers, and parents who are aware of the Pygmalion Effect and related concepts can use them to their advantage, leading to improved performance and outcomes for themselves or others. In conclusion, the Pygmalion Effect demonstrates the power of expectations and how they can impact behavior and performance.

The effect can be utilized in various settings, ranging from personal relationships to workplace environments. Understanding the Pygmalion Effect and related concepts such as labeling theory, the Golem Effect, and self-fulfilling prophecy can help leaders and educators to set specific, timely and optimistic expectations for their subordinates.

As a result, subordinates can be motivated to achieve their potential, thereby leading to better outcomes.

FAQs:

Q: Who coined the term “Pygmalion Effect?”

A: Robert Rosenthal coined the term in 1968.

Q: What is the Pygmalion myth and what is its significance? A: The Pygmalion myth concerns a sculptor who falls in love with his creation and it comes to life.

The term has been applied to illustrate how high expectations can influence performance. Q: What is the Pygmalion Effect experiment and what did it prove?

A: The Pygmalion Effect experiment was carried out in an elementary school in the 1960s, where groups of students were randomly labeled as “intellectual bloomers.” Teachers were informed of these labels and given high expectations for these students. Those students flourished compared to others.

Q: Can the Pygmalion Effect have negative consequences? A: While the Pygmalion Effect can lead to better performance, low expectations can lead to the opposite.

Therefore, it’s important to set optimistic expectations for the best possible outcomes. Q: How can the Pygmalion Effect be used effectively in the workplace?

A: Leaders can set optimistic expectations for their subordinates, provide them with specific feedback in a timely manner, recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and challenge them to exceed expectations. Q: What is labeling theory?

A: Labeling theory postulates that individuals may be influenced by the expectations of others around them. This can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy.

Q: What is the Golem Effect? A: The Golem Effect refers to negative consequences that can arise from low expectations, resulting in behavior that confirms those beliefs and poorer outcomes.

Q: What is self-fulfilling prophecy? A: Self-fulfilling prophecy is the phenomenon where expectations influence behavior, leading to outcomes that confirm those expectations.

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