The Pygmalion Effect – Rising Expectations


The Pygmalion effect refers to the phenomenon in which people’s performance are favourably influenced by their optimistic expectations.

You are getting started on a new project. Your boss visits you and tells you that he’s looking forward to seeing the finished product since he’s certain that you’ll do a great job.

Because your manager has high expectations, he may provide you with greater help throughout the project. As a result of your desire to please him, you may alter your conduct. Overtime and quality checks may be necessary if you are going to put in more time on the project than you had originally planned. In the end, the project may have been more successful because both your supervisor and you adjusted your behaviour. As a result of your boss’s high expectations, you worked more, which resulted in a better output.

The Pygmalion effect refers to the phenomenon in which people’s behaviour and performance are favourably influenced by their optimistic expectations.

This is especially evident in educational institutions and workplaces, where instructors and employers express their expectations to their students and employees. where decision making is affected by a qualitative bias and is not perfect as a result.

Although the Pygmalion effect happens mostly unconsciously, it reveals that the expectations of others may have a significant impact on our performance. To live up to the expectations of people who have high opinions of us, we put in a great effort.

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The Pygmalion effect works like a prophecy for both those who have expectations and those who are expected to live up to them. More effort increases the chance of success.
Performance may be influenced positively by the Pygmalion effect if there are high expectations. As a consequence, those who don’t feel that others have great expectations of them may suffer. In light of the Pygmalion effect, stereotypes may be more harmful than previously thought.

It’s not only our actions that are affected by someone’s high expectations for our success but their actions as well. As an example, if a teacher feels that one of their pupils is very clever and will be a success, they may pay more attention to them, offer them more thorough comments, and continue to push them. This leads some children to lag while others can excel because of the disparity in care.

The Pygmalion effect only has a beneficial influence on people whom we already have high hopes for. It may harm youngsters who are still developing their self-image based on other people’s perceptions of them. The responsibility of regulating and moderating expectations falls on those in positions of authority.

Four-factor theory

Pygmalion effect researcher Robert Rosenthal offered a four-factor theory in 1973 after initially studying it in 1968. Rosenthal identified four aspects that influenced teachers’ expectations of their students’ behaviour: climate, input, output, and feedback.

Teachers that have high expectations for their pupils might foster a positive social and economic climate, according to the term “climate.” They have a positive outlook on their kids, and this can be seen in the classroom. Inputs are when teachers are expected to deliver more and better-quality resources to kids they judge to be brilliant. Because of the output, instructors will offer those pupils more opportunities to reply and interact in the classroom. Another consideration was whether or not students with higher test scores were more likely to get feedback from their professors with more specific suggestions for improvement.

It’s crucial to know why

To get the best possible results, it’s important to understand how expectations affect our actions and the results of those actions.

Pygmalion’s impact argues that impressions are important. In the workplace, having a good reputation may lead to stronger support from your supervisor or superiors, which can make it easier for you to accomplish your objectives. Rosenthal, for example, saw that teachers paid more attention to and helped students who were called “bloomers.”

How do you get it to start working?

To trigger the Pygmalion effect, we must rely on the expectations of others as a driving force for our success. We may avoid the Pygmalion effect by being aware of it when we meet our superiors for the first time.

As a result, we may set ourselves up for success from the outset of a school year, project, or job by setting high expectations for ourselves and our colleagues.

But on the other hand, we may be disappointed if we don’t believe our superiors have great expectations for us, and this will have a detrimental effect on our actions and attitudes. Our friends and family may have high expectations of us, and we might use their views as a source of motivation to prove our bosses and instructors incorrect.

How it all started

From the Greek story of Pygmalion, the effect was coined. An artist who sculpted the statue of an attractive lady and afterwards fell in love with her was Pygmalion. To marry a lady as lovely as his sculpture would be his dream. The Goddess of love, Aphrodite, fulfilled his request and transformed his sculpture into a lady. Because of Pygmalion’s preoccupation with the sculpture, which parallels our tendency to fixate on what we anticipate in any given scenario, the sculpture came to life.

The Pygmalion effect is often referred to as the Rosenthal effect as well. Robert Rosenthal, a pioneer in behavioural research, and Lenore Jacobson, an elementary school principal, sought to see whether pupils’ academic performance was influenced by their teachers’ expectations of them. They were sure that if students understood what a teacher wanted from them, they would do better in school.

At the beginning of the school year, Rosenthal and Jacobson administered an IQ test to pupils at Jacobson’s primary school. To the children’s instructors, this was presented to them as a way to forecast which pupils will excel academically in the next year. They then picked kids at random and informed their teachers that they had done very well on the exam, although their real results showed no sign of cerebral bloomers.

Students completed the same IQ exam after the study. Rosenthal and Jacobson observed that the students who had been labelled intellectual bloomers had improved to a greater degree than the rest of the pupils the second time around. Children in the first and second grades were particularly affected. They found that if a teacher expects a better performance from pupils, it might lead to better performance, particularly for younger kids.


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