Just Sociology

Unpacking the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Pygmalion Rosenthal and Critiques

The concept of self-fulfilling prophecy has intrigued sociologists and psychologists alike, with its ability to shape behavior and influence outcomes. A self-fulfilling prophecy refers to the psychosociological phenomenon in which an individual’s false definition of a situation causes the person to behave in a manner that aligns with this erroneous view of reality.

This article aims to unpack the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy, its stages, and provide examples, including the Pygmalion Effect and Rosenthal Effect. We also critically evaluate studies that challenge the concept.

Definition and Stages

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a concept that describes the phenomenon whereby a false definition of a situation causes individuals to behave in ways that align with that definition, thereby creating outcomes that validate the initial belief. The four stages of a self-fulfilling prophecy are as follows.

Firstly, an individual creates their own interpretation of a situation, which can be erroneous. The next stage is when the individual behaves based on their interpretation, in a way that aligns with the perceived reality.

The third stage involves other individuals reacting to the individual’s behavior, reinforcing the initial interpretation. The final stage involves the outcome validating the individual’s interpretation, thereby crystallizing the false belief.

Examples

The Pygmalion Effect, named after the ancient Greek myth, is a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Pygmalion Effect is a phenomenon whereby individuals in positions of authority expect superior performance from subordinates, which leads to increased performance from the latter.

A study by Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) illustrated this by randomly selecting students from an elementary school and telling their teachers that they had intellectual potential above the average. At the end of the experiment, these students had performed better, validating the expectation.

Another example is the Rosenthal Effect, whereby individuals’ expectations of others influence results. In Rosenthal’s study (1966), he gave rats to participants for testing and informed them that some rats were bred to be smarter than others, which was untrue.

However, the participants administered tests based on expectation, and the performance of the smart rats exceeded that of the others. This experiment showed that even animals can be affected by the self-fulfilling prophecy.

However, the use of labeling has also had negative results. One study (Jussim et al., 1985) showed how a group of high IQ students who were falsely influenced by their teacher’s belief that they were of low ability obtained significantly lower results than those who were labeled as gifted.

These examples illustrate how individuals’ expectations of others can influence behaviors and outcomes.

Critical Evaluation

The Pygmalion Effect and Rosenthal Effect have faced criticism. For instance, a study by Snyder et al.

(1979) sought to challenge Rosenthal’s study, arguing that the results could have been influenced by the small sample size of the rats used in the experiment. Furthermore, the study attributed the superior performance of the smart rats to genetic or environmental factors and not the expectation of the researchers.

Similarly, studies have shown that labeling can have detrimental effects on individuals, particularly when the labels are based on negative stereotypes. A study by Ambady et al.

(2002) showed that labeling can be influenced by factors such as race and gender, which can be challenging to control. Therefore there is a need to critique studies to understand the validity of a concept fully.

Golem Effect

The

Golem Effect refers to poor performance by an individual resulting from low expectations. The

Golem Effect is a theoretical counterpart to the Pygmalion Effect, which is positive.

The

Golem Effect is named after the Jewish mythological creature Golem, which represents a being with no abilities or intelligence. Rosenthal, Inbar, and Babad (1986) conducted a study on police officers, wherein participants rated the physical presence and intelligence of officers based on their facial features.

The study found that when an individual had low expectations of their ability, they experienced reduced performance. Interaction with low-qualified individuals, particularly on internal low-tiers, can be de-golemized.

The de-golemization measures, which involve exposing the low expectations and providing feedback, showed significant improvement in performance according to a study by Babad et al. (1992).

Thus, it is feasible to overcome the

Golem Effect.

Conclusion

The concept of self-fulfilling prophecy and

Golem Effect highlights the need for individuals to be mindful of their expectations of others. An individual’s expectation can influence behavior and create outcomes that can be detrimental or positive.

Therefore, self-awareness is critical to avoid influencing negative outcomes. Additionally, studies on self-fulfilling prophecy and

Golem Effect provide insight into how to improve performance by setting expectations that encourage positive behavior.

Expansion

Placebo Effect

Definition and

Examples

The term placebo effect refers to the phenomenon whereby a treatment that lacks therapeutic value can produce an effect that resembles medication. A placebo can refer to a substance like a sugar pill, saline injection, or a therapeutic procedure such as a sham surgery.

Research has found that administering placebos to patients can lead to significant health improvements, such as pain reduction, mood enhancement, and even remission of certain medical conditions. Placebo effects stem from various psychological processes, including expectation, conditioning, and the patient’s relationship with the healthcare provider.

Placebo effects among people with Parkinson’s disease provide an example of how the phenomenon works. In a study by Benedetti et al.

(2003), people with Parkinson’s disease were given saline injections and subsequently experienced improved motor functions. The participants believed they were receiving apomorphine, a medication that enhances dopamine function, and the placebo effect triggered dopamine release, albeit naturally, resulting in the observed improvement in motor function.

Implications

Stereotype Threat

The concept of stereotype threat is the idea that situational factors can cause individuals to conform to stereotypes, leading to decreased confidence and subpar performance. Stereotype threat can lead to a loss of interest in activities and disciplines, resulting in individuals being unable to realize their full potential.

The phenomenon is widespread and can affect people of all demographic groups. Studies have shown the effects of stereotype threat in different settings.

For instance, a study by Steele and Aronson (1995) found that black students who were reminded of their race before a standardized exam performed worse than students who were not reminded. Similarly, studies have shown that participants reminded of gender stereotypes perform worse on cognitive tasks.

However, there has been some debate concerning the validity of the stereotype threat concept. Some researchers argue that there is little empirical evidence to support it.

Nonetheless, research supports the idea that situational factors can affect performance and outcomes, and therefore, it is essential to understand the influence of situational factors on individual behavior.

Causal Loop

The concept of a causal loop involves a repeating cycle of events that initiate or exacerbate uncontrollable outcomes. This concept is vital in understanding the recurrence of certain phenomena like bank collapses during economic depressions.

Panic, withdrawal of money from banks, and ultimately bank collapses create a continuing cycle that exacerbates the initial problem. One notable example is the 2008 financial crisis, which saw banks failing in quick succession.

The failure of Lehman Brothers triggered a domino effect that led to many financial institutions and banks experiencing significant losses, putting them at the risk of bankruptcy. The withdrawal of money creates a panic, leading to the collapse of more banks.

In conclusion, the concepts discussed in this article have a significant impact in various areas of life. Self-fulfilling prophecies,

Golem Effect, and placebo effect all have a bearing on human behavior and outcomes.

Stereotype threat and causal loops are important in understanding how situational factors can influence behavior and outcomes, ultimately affecting individuals and society at large.

Expansion

Further Information

Additional Studies and Articles

Rejection sensitivity is an individual’s heightened sensitivity to rejection, often leading to decreased self-esteem and avoidance of rejection. A study by Downey and Feldman (1996) found that individuals who are sensitive to rejection tend to expect and experience high levels of rejection.

This expectation can manifest negatively, leading to decreased self-esteem, impaired relationships, and diminished achievement motivation. Therefore, understanding rejection sensitivity is essential in improving people’s emotional and social wellbeing.

Gender-role stereotypic beliefs are the perceptions and expectations regarding the roles and attributes of men and women. Gender-role stereotypic beliefs can affect how individuals perceive themselves and others, leading to gender discrimination and stereotyping.

In a study by Rudman and Goodwin (2004), participants reported more negative feelings about women who violated gender-role norms, such as women who were assertive or unemotional. Gender-role stereotypic beliefs can be perpetuated by family members, school, media, and society at large, so there needs to be a concerted effort to challenge and reduce them.

Positive illusions are beliefs that individuals hold about themselves that tend to be overly positive or unrealistic. Positive illusions have been shown to contribute to increased mental health, including better mood, high self-esteem, and reduced anxiety.

In a study by Taylor and Brown (1988), participants who had positive illusions about their performance on an intelligence test showed increased happiness and reduced anxiety, regardless of their actual test scores. Therefore, positive illusions can be an essential tool in enhancing people’s mental wellbeing.

Intelligence is a critical concept in social psychology, given its impact on achievement, social standing, and life quality. Intelligence is generally defined as the ability to learn, reason, problem-solve, and make decisions independently.

Intelligence is shaped by both genetic and environmental factors, and its influence on various life domains can be moderated by factors such as motivation, expectations, and social support. In conclusion, social psychology is a vast and constantly evolving field, with various concepts and findings that shape our understanding of human behavior and interactions.

Additional studies and articles in social psychology explore further concepts that can impact individuals’ social and emotional wellbeing, including rejection sensitivity, gender-role stereotypic beliefs, positive illusions, and intelligence. Understanding these concepts can help individuals make informed decisions and improve their lives while promoting greater social harmony and wellbeing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this article provided an in-depth exploration of several critical concepts in social psychology, including self-fulfilling prophecy,

Golem Effect, placebo effect, stereotype threat, causal loop, rejection sensitivity, gender-role stereotypic beliefs, positive illusions, and intelligence. These concepts have far-reaching implications for human behavior and interactions, affecting individuals and society at large.

Understanding the ways in which situational factors and expectations can influence behavior can help individuals make informed decisions and improve their lives while promoting greater social harmony and wellbeing.

FAQs

1. What is the self-fulfilling prophecy?

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a psychosociological phenomenon in which an individual’s false definition of a situation results in them behaving in ways that align with that perception, creating outcomes that confirm the initial belief. 2.

What is the placebo effect? The placebo effect refers to the phenomenon whereby a treatment without therapeutic value can produce effects resembling medication, leading to significant health improvements.

3. What is stereotype threat?

Stereotype threat is the idea that situational factors can cause individuals to conform to stereotypes, leading to decreased confidence and subpar performance, ultimately affecting individuals and society at large. 4.

What are positive illusions? Positive illusions are beliefs that individuals hold about themselves that tend to be overly positive or unrealistic, leading to increased mental health.

5. What is intelligence?

Intelligence is the ability to learn, reason, problem-solve, and make decisions independently, with its influence on various life domains moderated by factors such as motivation, expectations, and social support.

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