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The Pygmalion Effect

March 21, 2012 10:50 PM 1
Total Posts: 24
Join Date: June 11, 2008
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Post Date: January 1, 1970
Posts: 24
Location: United States

The Pygmalion Effect

A team does as well as you and the team think they can.

This idea is known as “the self-fulfilling prophecyâ€. When you believe the team will perform well, in some strange, magical way they do. And similarly, when you believe they won’t perform well, they don’t.

There is enough experimental data to suggest that the self-fulfilling prophecy is true. One unusual experiment in 1911 concerned a very clever horse called Hans. This horse had the reputation for being able to add, multiply, subtract, and divide by tapping out the answer with its hooves. The extraordinary thing was that it could do this without its trainer being present. It only needed someone to put the questions.

On investigation, it was found that when the questioner knew the answer, he or she transmitted various very subtle body language clues to Hans such as the raising of an eyebrow or the dilation of the nostrils. Hans simply picked up on these clues and continued tapping until he arrived at the required answer. The questioner expected a response and Hans obliged.

In similar vein, an experiment was carried out at a British school into the performance of a new intake of pupils. At the start of the year, the pupils were each given a rating, ranging from “excellent prospect†to “unlikely to do wellâ€. These were totally arbitrary ratings and did not reflect how well the pupils had previously performed. Nevertheless, these ratings were given to the teachers. At the end of the year, the experimenters compared the pupils’ performance with the ratings. Despite their real abilities, there was an astonishingly high correlation between performance and ratings. It seems that people perform as well as we expect them to.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is also known as the Pygmalion Effect. This comes from a story by Ovid about Pygmalion, a sculptor and prince of Cyprus, who created an ivory statue of his ideal woman. The result which he called Galatea was so beautiful that he immediately fell in love with it. He begged the goddess Aphrodite to breathe life into the statue and make her his own. Aphrodite granted Pygmalion his wish, the statue came to life and the couple married and lived happily ever after.   

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