Psychology Phenomena {5} ~ The Pygmalion/Rosenthal Effect

The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is a psychological phenomenon wherein high expectations lead to improved performance in a given area. The effect is named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved, or alternately, after the psychologist Robert Rosenthal. Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, in their book, applied the idea to teachers’ expectations of their students affecting the students’ performance, a view that has been undermined partially by subsequent research.

Rosenthal and Jacobson held that high expectations lead to better performance and low expectations lead to worse, both effects leading to self-fulfilling prophecy. According to the Pygmalion effect, the targets of the expectations internalize their positive labels, and those with positive labels succeed accordingly; a similar process works in the opposite direction in the case of low expectations. The idea behind the Pygmalion effect is that increasing the leader’s expectation of the follower’s performance will result in better follower performance. Within sociology, the effect is often cited with regard to education and social class. The Pygmalion effect has also been subject to criticism.

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