The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and the Pygmalion Effect


Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” As we move through our days, interacting with family, friends, and business associates, our personality ethic comes through. Our personality ethic includes having a positive attitude, positive affirmations, belief in oneself, an attitude of openness, and positive expectations. The focus of this newsletter is the impact of our positive expectations for ourselves and others and the discussion of the Self-fulfilling Prophecy and the Pygmalion Effect.

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The Self-fulfilling Prophecy essentially says that a belief not yet realized, but strongly held and internally affirmed, will in fact become true. There are lots of versions of this—“fake it til you make it,” “you become what you think about” are two such forms. Through positive expectations, our thoughts and behaviors become so knitted together as to characterize belief and truth. Realizing our potential is not just psychological, but physical as well. Amy Cuddy in a recent TED talk shows how changing our body language changes who we actually become.

The Pygmalion Effect holds that having expectations for others helps them realize their potential. Teachers told that students (randomly chosen) will blossom, actually did blossom. When I was applying to grad school I had a great mentor named Gerry Hanley. When I didn’t get in to school that year, he said I was just “unlucky,” which to me implied that had I been lucky I would do just fine. I did get into Miami University the next year (with a 100% scholarship), and did just fine. He held a “getting in” belief for me and it helped me in my belief too. Why is this? With positive thoughts and expectations, we look for evidence to support our beliefs, and slowly, our beliefs for ourselves and others become reality.

I’m asking you to be the voice of positive expectations, and be the experience of optimism for others and for yourself. Dream your dream and hold that vision—it will come true!

Warm wishes,

James Lani, Ph.D