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self-fulfilling prophecy, process through which an originally false expectation leads to its own confirmation. In a self-fulfilling prophecy an individual’s expectations about another person or entity eventually result in the other person or entity acting in ways that confirm the expectations.

A classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy is the bank failures during the Great Depression. Even banks on strong financial footing sometimes were driven to insolvency by bank runs. Often, if a false rumor started that the bank was insolvent (incapable of covering its deposits), a panic ensued, and depositors wanted to withdraw their money all at once before the bank’s cash ran out. When the bank could not cover all the withdrawals, it actually did become insolvent. Thus, an originally false belief led to its own fulfillment.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are important to the understanding of intergroup relations. Under just the right (or wrong) conditions, inaccurate social stereotypes may lead to their own fulfillment. For example, members of groups stereotyped as more intelligent, competent, or likable can, through the operation of self-fulfilling prophecies, actually become more intelligent, competent, or likable than members of groups stereotyped as less intelligent, competent, or likable. Thus, self-fulfilling prophecies may contribute to the maintenance not only of stereotypes themselves but of the group differences and inequalities that give rise to those stereotypes. Such processes, however, are limited, and the extent to which they contribute to group differences and inequalities is the subject of considerable controversy.

Early research

The earliest empirical research on self-fulfilling prophecies examined whether teachers’ false expectations for their students caused students to achieve at levels consistent with those teachers’ expectations. Repeatedly, although not always, research demonstrated that teachers’ expectations are indeed self-fulfilling, as students sometimes come to perform at levels consistent with their teachers’ originally false expectations.

This research has been interpreted by many scholars as providing a powerful insight into social, educational, and economic inequality. Teachers’ expectations seem to systematically advantage students from already advantaged backgrounds and disadvantage students from already disadvantaged backgrounds. To the extent that education is a major stepping-stone toward occupational and economic advancement, self-fulfilling prophecies, it would seem, constitute a major social force operating to prevent the disadvantaged from improving their lot.

Classic studies also showed that both physical attractiveness and racial stereotypes could be self-fulfilling. When men interviewed a woman whom they falsely believed was conventionally physically attractive (accomplished through the use of false photographs in nonface-to-face interviews), not only were the men warmer and friendlier to her, but she became warmer and friendlier in response. Moreover, when white interviewers treated white interviewees in the same cold and distant manner they used with African American interviewees, the performance of the white interviewees suffered.

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Self-fulfilling prophecies have been demonstrated in a wide variety of educational, occupational, professional, and informal contexts. They have been demonstrated in experimental laboratory studies, experimental field studies, and naturalistic studies. Indeed, it is fairly easy to string together a few of the classic studies to tell a compelling story about how teachers’ expectations, employers’ expectations, and expectations in everyday interactions victimize people from stigmatized social groups. The logic here is quite simple. Stereotypes are widely shared and inaccurate. Stereotypes lead to inaccurate expectations. These expectations, in turn, are self-fulfilling. According to this perspective, self-fulfilling prophecies constitute a major source of social inequalities and social problems.

The limits of self-fulfilling prophecies

For several reasons, however, evidence for the power of self-fulfilling prophecies is far from conclusive. First, some of the classic studies had major methodological problems. Second, many have proven difficult to replicate. Third, the overall power of self-fulfilling prophecies, especially as obtained in naturalistic studies that do not involve experimenters intentionally creating false expectations in participants, is not large at all. Fourth, there currently is about as much evidence that positive self-fulfilling prophecies improve the performance of low-achieving students as there is that negative self-fulfilling prophecies harm their performance. Fifth, considerable evidence indicates that people are not rudderless ships, relentlessly tossed around on the seas of other people’s expectations. Instead, people have their own motivations and goals that enable them to successfully combat others’ false expectations.

Overall, therefore, the evidence does not justify a simple picture of self-fulfilling prophecies as powerful and pervasive sources of social problems. But the picture gets even fuzzier when other research is added to the mix. Although not all stereotypes are 100 percent accurate, it can be argued that most of the empirical studies that have assessed people’s beliefs about groups and then compared those beliefs with criteria regarding what those groups are actually like (census reports, results from hundreds of empirical studies, self-reports) find that people’s beliefs correspond to groups’ characteristics quite well. Indeed, the accuracy of many of the people’s stereotypes (the extent to which people’s beliefs about groups correspond to what those groups are actually like) is one of the largest relationships in all of social psychology.

In addition, the shared component of stereotypes is typically even more accurate than is the individual or idiosyncratic component. Arguably, people do not rigidly and powerfully apply their stereotypes when judging individuals. They often readily jettison their stereotypes when clear and relevant personal information is available about the person being judged, and overall the effect of stereotypes on judging individuals is generally quite small. Thus, some of the key assumptions underlying the “self-fulfilling stereotypes are a powerful and pervasive source of social problems” story, that stereotypes are widely shared and inaccurate and that they powerfully distort expectations for individuals, seem to be largely invalid.

A second important assumption underlying the argument for the power of self-fulfilling prophecies is that even if these prophecies are small in any given study, those small effects, because they likely accumulate over time, can become quite large and hence at least partially account for major social inequalities. For example, if teachers’ expectations increased the IQ of high-expectancy students only 3 points per year and decreased the IQ of low-expectancy students only 3 points per year and if these effects accumulated, then at the end of six years there would be a 36-IQ-point difference between two students who started out with identical IQ test scores but different expectancies.

However, empirical research on self-fulfilling prophecies in education has not provided any evidence of accumulation. Rather than accumulating to become larger and larger over time, the effects of self-fulfilling prophecies in the classroom dissipate over time, as they become smaller and smaller. Given the evidence for generally high accuracy in teachers’ expectations, strongly erroneous teachers’ expectations may be the exception rather than the rule. Thus, students may be highly unlikely to be the target of the same type of erroneous expectation year after year, thereby limiting the likelihood that they will be subjected to the same erroneous expectation (and its self-fulfilling effects) year after year.

Nonetheless, the story about the role of self-fulfilling prophecies in social problems should not be completely discarded. Self-fulfilling prophecies probably do play a real yet relatively modest role in creating or maintaining social inequalities based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, social class, gender, and attractiveness. Moreover, in some contexts this role can be quite large. Some of the largest self-fulfilling prophecy effects ever obtained were found among students from stigmatized social and demographic groups (African American students, lower social class students, and students with histories of low achievement). Additionally, even though educational self-fulfilling prophecies do not accumulate, they can be very long-lasting. Finally, the types of diagnostic labels often used in educational contexts—learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, neurologically impaired—are inaccurately applied sufficiently often that they may frequently create inaccurately low expectations that are indeed self-fulfilling.

Lee Jussim

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Definition, Examples, & Theories

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Definition, Examples, & Theories

By Eser Yilmaz, M.S., Ph.D.
Reviewed by Tchiki Davis, M.A., Ph.D.

What is a self-fulfilling prophecy? Find out about the theory and research behind this concept and learn how you can avoid negative self-fulfilling prophecies.

*This page may include affiliate links; that means we earn from qualifying purchases of products.

Have you ever predicted something in your life that later occurred just the way you expected? Maybe it was that you knew you’d give a terrible presentation, and just as you’d predicted, your speech was a rambling mess. Or, a few months ago, you had a feeling that your significant other would soon lose their interest in you, and lo-and-behold, you are single again.

Sometimes we just have that feeling deep inside that we know precisely how something will play out or how someone – or ourselves – will behave in a specific situation. And when our predictions come true, we perceive them as evidence that we know how people act or how the gears of society turn. But what if it is us and our beliefs that turn those gears and bring about the outcomes we expect? This may sound like a blurb of a science fiction novel, but it is a scientific concept we call a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this article, we’ll discuss the theory behind self-fulfilling prophecies and dig into the research about this concept. Furthermore, we will explore several examples of self-fulfilling prophecies and find out how we can prevent negative self-fulfilling prophecies from becoming a reality.

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What Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? (A Definition)

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief about a future event that leads people to act a certain way, ultimately bringing about the expected outcome. In other words, our expectations can come true by influencing our behaviors. A striking aspect of self-fulfilling prophecies is that these predictions may be divorced from objective reality at the beginning but have the power to alter people’s behavior in such a way that they become the new reality in the end.

Typically, a self-fulfilling prophecy consists of a three-step loop (figure 1). The first step is the prophecy itself, which is a person’s belief about a future outcome. The second step of the loop is the behavioral response. This might be the attitude of the person, their behavior as a response to their predictions, or it may include the reactions of others. The third step is when the prophecy comes true due to the actions in the second step. Moreover, the occurrence of the anticipated outcome confirms the original belief and primes the person to hold on to the same notion in similar situations in the future.

The concept of self-fulfilling prophecies has been known for millennia, as there are many examples in mythology and literature of several cultures. In fact, the philosopher Karl Popper named this same phenomenon “the Oedipus effect” in his book The Poverty of Historicism (Popper, 1957) after the Greek mythology character, Oedipus, who fulfills a tragic prophecy by taking actions to avoid it. Nonetheless, the widely-used term “self-fulfilling prophecy” was coined in the mid-20th century by a sociologist named Robert Merton (Merton, 1948). Let’s take a closer look at this concept and what sociology and psychology research has taught us about self-fulfilling prophecies.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in Psychology and Sociology

Robert Merton’s notion of the self-fulfilling prophecy implies that an initially false social belief influences people’s actions in such a way that the original falsehood ultimately becomes true (Merton, 1948). One major inspiration for Merton’s idea was the Thomas theorem, which states that “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas and Thomas, 1928).  

One of the most prominent examples of self-fulfilling prophecies in psychology research is the placebo vs. nocebo effect. Briefly, a placebo effect is observing a positive health outcome following an inactive treatment (Crum and Phillips, 2015). A nocebo effect is the opposite of this observation when the health outcome is negative (Crum and Phillips, 2015). In both cases, the health outcome is brought about by the power of belief; when the person believes they receive a beneficial treatment, they report positive changes to their health, but when they think they receive a harmful treatment, they report undesirable effects.

But what shapes a patient’s opinion about interventions, and what are the implications of placebo or nocebo effects? Many people’s views are influenced by the information they receive from their health care providers. Therefore, it is crucial for health care staff to keep in mind that the way they interact with and inform a patient might have a powerful effect on that patient’s treatment (Johnson, 2014). Moreover, in countries like the U.S., where pharmaceutical companies advertise their products directly to consumers, a patient’s perception of a treatment’s efficacy may be influenced by these advertisements, affecting their treatment outcomes (Kamenica, Naclerio, and Malani, 2013).
What about sociology research? Self-fulfilling prophecies have been studied in numerous social contexts ranging from classroom expectations to racial stereotypes. Yet, the distinguishing feature of psychology and sociology research concerning this topic is that psychology research focuses on how our beliefs affect our behavior, whereas sociology research also accounts for how the opinions of others affect our thoughts and behaviors. One of the best-known examples of the latter is the Pygmalion effect.  

The self-fulfilling prophecy in a classic experiment
​In a classic experiment done in the 1960s, researchers chose two groups of students at random at an elementary school. They told the teachers that they identified the first group of students as “growth-spurters” who have a high potential for intellectual growth and the second group as the ordinary students who are expected to develop at an average pace (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968).  

Eight months later, when the researchers revisited the classrooms, they administered IQ tests to both groups of students and discovered that the students in the growth-spurter group tested significantly higher even though they were equal before (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968). Upon further inspection, the researchers noticed that the teachers’ expectations of a student changed their behavior toward them, such as giving the growth-spurter kids more attention and support, which then was internalized by the students to alter their self-beliefs and actions, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy about students’ intellectual growth (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968). Here is a video about the Pygmalion effect that you may enjoy.

Video: The Pygmalion Effect

Stereotype Threat as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Another prominent sociological concept based on self-fulfilling prophecies is the stereotype threat, in which the members of a group can be affected by the stereotypical notions about that group (Steele, 1997). For instance, female students are typically expected to perform worse than their male counterparts in science and math-related subjects (Steele, 1997). These gender-specific expectations eventually result in fewer women than men choosing fields such as engineering. Similarly, stereotype threat is also applicable to race; teachers often expect Black or Latino students to perform worse than white or Asian students (Steele, 1997), resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy about student success in the classroom and beyond.

Positive Versus Negative Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Self-fulfilling prophecies can have positive or negative effects, depending on the starting false belief. For instance, a placebo effect is a positive self-fulfilling prophecy, whereas a nocebo effect is a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. Similarly, a teacher’s opinion about a student can be positive or negative, affecting the student’s success by enhancing or weakening it.

When the original false belief is positive and leads to desirable effects, it may benefit the individual. For instance, if we believe that we can accomplish a difficult task and act accordingly, we may be more likely to achieve it. However, when the self-fulfilling prophecy is negative, it can potentially impact the person or society in undesirable ways. This may be especially detrimental when people’s actions are informed by false biases, such as negative opinions against groups of people based on their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Examples of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

There are many self-fulfilling prophecy examples around us. Here are a few that you might have heard about or witnessed. 

  • Bank run: This example is one of Merton’s original ideas (Merton and Merton, 1968). It involves clients of a bank believing that the bank is about to cease function. Therefore, the clients rush to the bank, withdrawing all their money. If many clients empty their accounts, the bank may run out of funds, become destabilized, and cease its functions. 

  • Strikebreakers: This example is also one of Merton’s observations. In short, in the early 20th century, many believed that African American workers were strikebreakers, which caused the labor unions to shun them. This caused African American workers to struggle to find and keep stable jobs. Therefore, many had to fill positions during strikes, fulfilling the prophecy that they were strikebreakers (Merton, 1948).

  • Dangerous slums: This type of labeling starts when part of the population believes that one of their city’s neighborhoods is becoming a slum. This belief causes worried families who can afford to move away to leave that neighborhood for places that are perceived as safer, leaving the poor, less-educated, or unemployed residents behind. The housing prices may drop, allowing more poor people to move into vacated homes. Moreover, policing may increase in the so-called slum, leading to more arrests, further expanding the notion that the neighborhood is crime-ridden and unsafe.

  • Bad wedding: A bride and groom, Jill and Jim, worry that something may ruin their wedding and their guests won’t be able to enjoy themselves. By trying to micromanage every little detail and making unreasonable requests, they anger their closest friends and family members, causing some of them to attend the wedding in a foul mood and others to be too upset to enjoy it. 

Here is an informative video with other prominent self-fulfilling prophecy examples that you may enjoy.

Video: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Examples of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in Relationships

Whether intimate, between friends, or within a family, relationships are constantly shaped by individuals' actions. And since the actions and behaviors of individuals are informed by their thoughts, beliefs, and expectations, numerous examples of self-fulfilling prophecies occur in relationships. Here are a few examples.

  • Disinterested partner: Ashley has been dating Arun for nearly a year. Although she and Arun enjoy each other’s company and love one another dearly, Ashley suspects that Arun will start losing interest in her within the next few months. Ashley buys expensive clothes and lingerie and gets a stylish haircut before their weeklong vacation to ensure Arun's continued interest. When Arun picks Ashley up, he doesn’t notice her new clothes or haircut right away. To make matters worse, he gets tired after driving for hours and falls asleep as soon as he steps into the hotel room before seeing Ashley’s new lingerie. Ashley gets upset and acts infuriated the entire week. Whenever Arun asks what happened, she blames him for not loving her anymore. Neither Arun nor Ashley enjoys the vacation. After their return, Arun starts acting cautiously to avoid upsetting Ashley, which she interprets as a sign of his slipping interest. A few weeks later, they break up. 


  • The lousy seed: Yvonne has two children: Boris and Estelle. Yvonne thinks she has always loved her children equally. Yet, she’s given most of her attention to Boris ever since he was born, claiming there’s something special about him. Boris continues to live near Yvonne and visits her every day. Estelle has left for college and sees Yvonne every few years. Yvonne is upset that Estelle turned out to be so uncaring and callous but feels happy to have predicted Boris would be such a great son.


  • Cheating spouse: Denise has never liked working out. Yet, a few months ago, she discovered a new cycling class that she enjoys. Her husband Julian is puzzled by Denise’s sudden desire to go to the gym or get in shape and thinks there must be another reason. So, he suspects Denise is interested in another man. When Julian confronts Denise, she is surprised that he doesn’t trust her. Denise stops going to the gym, but Julian continues to think Denise must be having an affair and brings up his suspicions at every opportunity, and often calls her a cheater. A few weeks later, Denise travels for a conference. There she meets a charming executive who buys her a drink. When Denise invites him to her hotel room, she thinks, “why not? Julian thinks I'm cheating on him anyway.”


  • Wicked stepparent: Thirteen-year-old Lydia is upset that her father is marrying Shima. Lydia thinks Shima won’t be a loving stepmother and will ruin her relationship with her father. Every time Shima is around, Lydia starts acting up. Lydia’s behavior becomes more erratic after the wedding. Eventually, Shima talks to her husband about how her stepdaughter’s behavior upsets her. He talks to Lydia and tells her to apologize to Shima. Lydia refuses, which causes her father to get angry. Lydia feels her father’s reaction has one explanation: her wicked stepmother succeeded in ruining Lydia’s relationship with her father. ​

Examples of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in School

  • Boys are better at math: Chantelle and Jamal are twins learning algebra at school. At first, Chantelle understands the concepts quickly. Jamal struggles with some ideas and turns in the assignments he copies from Chantelle. Their math teacher Mr. Knowles praises the precision and details in Jamal’s homework assignments and doesn’t acknowledge anything about Chantelle’s. Moreover, he rarely picks Chantelle when she raises her hand to answer a question. Jamal feels encouraged to do better and pays more attention in class, whereas Chantelle starts to daydream during math. At the end of the school year, Chantelle starts turning in the assignments she copies from Jamal.


  • Stereotype threat: Khalid is a fifth-grader whose family has recently moved to the U. S. from Syria. Khalid’s parents don’t speak English well and work as line cooks. Khalid’s classmate, Ling, is also a recent immigrant who moved from China after Ling’s father accepted a faculty position at a nearby university. Their teacher, Ms. White, believes Khalid won’t perform as well as her other students, whereas she expects Ling to excel in every subject. So, she gives more attention to Ling and barely acknowledges Khalid’s presence. At the end of the school year, Ling performs better than all other students, whereas Khalid struggles with most subjects, both students fulfilling the prophecy about their educational fates. ​

How to Avoid the Negative Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

As discussed earlier, negative self-fulfilling prophecies may affect an individual’s success, happiness, and general well-being. If we are caught in the cycle of a negative self-fulfilling prophecy about ourselves, we may be putting obstacles on our journeys. Therefore, we might want to consider the validity of our opinions before letting them influence our actions. 

For example, suppose you wake up in the morning before a job interview and think that your interview will be a total bust. In that case, you might enter the interview room with a negative attitude, look hesitant, have low confidence in your skills, and may sound unprepared or inconsistent when you answer questions. 

How can you avoid fulfilling the prophecy of a disastrous interview? Asking yourself why you think you will perform poorly is a good start. If you determine the underlying reason for your beliefs, you might be able to address them on time. In the long term, working towards improving your self-confidence and self-worth may help you avoid having negative thoughts about yourself, thus preventing negative self-fulfilling prophecies from becoming new realities. 

Similarly, our self-fulfilling prophecies may also affect other people or change the fabric of society by strengthening negative opinions and biases against certain individuals or populations. We can avoid these negative self-fulfilling prophecies by recognizing what is prejudice and what is an accurate observation. We can accomplish this by educating ourselves and others around us and questioning the validity of opinions by requesting evidence or more information.

Articles Related to the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy​

Books Related to the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy​

If you’d like to keep learning more, here are a few books that you might be interested in.

  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: A Practical Guide to Its Use in Education​
  • How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
  • Believe in Yourself: An inmate journal for women: Notebook with inspiring, positive and motivational quotes

Final Thoughts on Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Self-fulfilling prophecies are false beliefs that cause people to act in a certain way, which results in the occurrence of the original predictions. Sociology and psychology research has provided a lot of information about how self-fulfilling prophecies can affect individuals or populations, and there are numerous everyday examples of self-fulfilling prophecies we can learn from. Moreover, given that self-fulfilling prophecies can be positive or negative, we might benefit from boosting positive self-fulfilling prophecies and avoiding negative ones. 

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  • Crum, A., & Phillips, D. J. (2015). Self-fulfilling prophesies, placebo effects, and the social-psychological creation of reality. Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences, 1-14.
  • Johnson, J. A. (2014). Placebo/Nocebo/Tomato Effect… It’s All About Attitude, Perception, and Expectation. Journal for nurses in professional development, 30(5), 264-265.
  • Kamenica, E., Naclerio, R., & Malani, A. (2013). Advertisements impact the physiological efficacy of a branded drug.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(32), 12931-12935.
  • Merton, R. K. (1948). The self-fulfilling prophecy. The Antioch Review, 8(2), 193-210.
  • Merton, R. K., & Merton, R. C. (1968). Social theory and social structure. Simon and Schuster.
  • Popper, K. R. (1957). The poverty of historicism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The Urban Review, 3(1), 16-20.
  • Thomas, W. I., & Thomas, D. S. (1928). The child in America. Oxford: Knopf.

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What are self-fulfilling prophecies and how they affect your life

November 13, 2022 A life

Scientists call them self-fulfilling or self-fulfilling.

You can listen to the short version of the article. If it's more convenient for you, turn on the podcast.

What is a self-fulfilling prophecy

This is a psychological phenomenon when a person's prediction indirectly affects reality so that it eventually becomes true. For example, when a candidate is afraid that anxiety will interfere with his interview, and really fails the meeting because he is too nervous. nine0003

For the first time in science, this phenomenon was described in 1948 by the American sociologist Robert Merton. He worked on issues of discrimination and noticed that the victims of racism were more often those who initially believed that they would be attacked.

Merton's work was continued by psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Leonora Jacobson, who showed that a person can involuntarily realize not only his own, but also other people's expectations. In now classic experiments, they discovered and described the Pygmalion effect. Situations where high or low expectations lead to better or worse results, respectively. For example, Rosenthal and Jacobson found that the attitude of a teacher towards a student can affect student performance. nine0003

How much do self-fulfilling prophecies affect life

There is no consensus among scientists on this issue. Some are convinced that the role of self-fulfilling prophecies is very modest and exaggerated. Critics argue that the phenomenon does not always manifest itself. And sometimes a prediction is just the result of intelligent analysis. For example, a person can simply know himself well and therefore foresee his actions.

Proponent of this point of view, Professor of Rutgers Research University (USA) Lee Jassim believes that people have their own goals and motives and therefore are not so receptive to the expectations of others. However, he acknowledges that self-fulfilling prophecies can have a cumulative effect and ultimately have a significant impact on our minds and behaviors. nine0003

Other researchers note that in many areas of life, such as education and intergroup interactions, the role of self-fulfilling prophecies is great, and numerous experiments have confirmed their existence.

The power of self-fulfilling prophecies lies in the fact that they are able to create a vicious circle of thoughts and behavior. If a person believes in something, he will begin to make decisions in accordance with new beliefs. As a result, his behavior will change, which will affect the opinions of others. And already the attitude of strangers will strengthen the person's initial beliefs about himself, others or about the world. nine0003

In a similar way, people can perceive other people's attitudes. For example, if a child is constantly told that nothing sensible will come of him, then he can believe in this, stop doing “useless” studies and start to act like hooligans. His behavior will cause a response from those around him, which will only strengthen him in his belief that he is "stupid".

What exactly do self-fulfilling prophecies affect

In various areas of life.

For physical health

The negative effects of self-fulfilling prophecies are sometimes quite unexpected. For example, the fear of falls only increases their likelihood among the elderly.

Another common example of a self-fulfilling prophecy is the placebo effect. People may expect help from remedies that don't really work and actually feel better even though they've taken a pacifier.

Mental health

A depressed person may convince himself that no one needs him or that he has no friends. Believing this, it is easy to start avoiding communication or acting unfriendly, because you will not expect anything good from others. And in the end, such a person can really break ties with everyone. nine0003

By doing this, he, among other things, convinces other people of his unsociableness and unsociableness. All this will lead to the fact that they will really stop communicating with him, and he himself will be in an even deeper depression.


If one of the partners initially does not expect that the relationship will be serious, then he will behave accordingly. This can cause the second person to feel detached and doubtful. In this case, both people will begin to consider the relationship frivolous. As a result, the couple will really fall apart. nine0003

For productivity and efficiency

Those who doubt their own skills may inadvertently let themselves down. For example, spending less time on work because they are convinced that everything will end in failure. Why try then?

The same thing can happen to people who have been told that they are not capable of doing anything.

For success and achievement

In their experiment, Robert Rosenthal and Leonora Jacobson randomly divided students of one class into "gifted" and "ordinary". The researchers passed this information on to teachers. It turned out that the positive expectations of the teacher contributed to a significant improvement in IQ scores in "gifted" children compared to "ordinary" ones. Although there was virtually no difference between these groups at the beginning of the experiment. nine0003

On stereotypes

The effect of self-fulfilling prophecies is very important in understanding where prejudices come from. For example, a person may be sure that the representatives of some social or national group are not able to work well. Because of this, the entrepreneur is likely to deny employment to all members of this group or specifically look for flaws in the work that will confirm his prejudice.

Employees may feel that their work is not appreciated, and because of this, stop trying. This, in turn, will only reinforce the stereotypes of the boss. Or maybe the workers themselves will eventually begin to doubt their own abilities. nine0003

Perception of the environment

The same applies to communication. If you are convinced before the meeting that you are going to talk with an interesting person with a wealth of experience, you may be friendlier and more inquisitive than usual. This will allow the interlocutor to “open up”, and the conversation will really be useful and exciting. And your counterpart will confirm that you can keep the conversation going. That is, the prophecy will come true for both of you.

How to manage self-fulfilling prophecies

Although the negative impact of self-fulfilling prophecies is most often noticed, they can also bring benefits. Here's what you can do to make it happen.

Learn to deal with your own harmful thoughts

You need to change your behavior and thinking. Try to evaluate your own actions and work on correcting prejudices on your own. Try to understand the reasons for actions, think about how often you praise or scold yourself and what you pay attention to: your shortcomings or virtues. nine0003

If difficulties arise, it is worth contacting a specialist - a psychologist or psychotherapist. This is where cognitive behavioral therapy can help.

Set yourself up for success

Try using the Pygmalion effect to your advantage. For example, it is known that if a manager expects an increase in the efficiency of employees, this can actually happen. Employees can understand that the boss is waiting for better results and believes that it is real, and therefore they will try harder. If you want a breakthrough, convince your subordinates of its possibility. nine0003

This effect also works in the opposite direction: when people expect something from the leader, he may begin to strive to meet these expectations. Perhaps your boss just doesn't know that you deserve a raise. You need to put this thought into his head, inadvertently mentioning your benefit to the team.

Believe in those you love

Self-fulfilling prophecies can not only destroy relationships, but also strengthen them. When a person is sure that he has found "that one" or "the one", he will try to make the relationship happy. Which will ultimately lead to this. So try to be less doubtful. This can give confidence to both you and your partner. nine0003

Think positively about other people

Positive expectations can work in all areas. A friendly attitude will make the interlocutor more polite, more accommodating and more sympathetic to you. And if you believe that it is not nationality, gender, age or belonging to a social group that determine the character and behavior of people, then there will be fewer reasons for prejudice.

Protect yourself from other people's negative thoughts

It is worth thinking about whose opinion you adhere to: your own or imposed? Try to convince yourself that if someone thinks badly of you, treats you with prejudice, or underestimates, this does not mean that there is really something wrong with you. nine0003

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Self-fulfilling prophecies

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New Year and Christmas is not only a time of holidays and joy. Since ancient times, the end of the outgoing year and the beginning of a new one are considered a special time for divination. Many interesting and fun traditions of our country are connected precisely with New Year's fortune-telling: Christmas fortune-telling, fortune-telling for Epiphany, making wishes to the sound of chimes. nine0003

Prophecy is a very interesting topic that has occupied the minds of mankind since the earliest history. Sometimes predictions promise us happiness and the fulfillment of our desires; such predictions are sometimes able to give us new strength. Making wishes can also be useful: after all, if we know what we want, it is much easier for us to achieve our goals. ( By the way: try to remember your wishes for the last New Year and assess how you managed to fulfill them). nine0113

But predictions can also be dangerous - even those that predict the fulfillment of our desires. We will talk about one of the varieties of dangerous predictions - perhaps the most popular - in this article.

"But you will receive death from your horse"

"The Song of Prophetic Oleg" is a perfect example of the so-called self-fulfilling prophecy . Self-fulfilling prophecy is a term coined by American sociologist Robert Merton. Merton defined self-fulfilling prophecy as follows:
"A self-fulfilling prophecy is a false definition of a situation that causes new behavior that turns the original misconception into reality."

It is easy to see how this definition fits "song". Prophetic Oleg, having heard that he is destined to die from his war horse, sends the noble animal away from himself. After many years, he inquires about his horse and learns that he has long since died. Then Oleg goes to the remains of his animal. He stands on the horse's bones, makes a short speech; and at the same time a snake crawls out of the skull and stings the prince, thereby killing him. nine0009 Alexander Sergeevich cites this story as an amazing example of the power of prophecy. But, in fact, if Oleg had not heard this prophecy, he would hardly have specifically checked the bones of his horse, much less speak a long speech denouncing the sorcerer. If he had not undertaken to speak this speech, the snake would not have bitten him. Thus, we can say that it was not the horse that killed the prince - he was killed by the snake and ... the prophecy he heard.

Robert Merton, the author of the concept, was hardly familiar with Pushkin's work; and if there was, it relied not on the "Song", but on the events that took place in the US economy in the 30s of the last century. As you know, those years became famous as one of the darkest periods of the "country of freedom": they are known as the Great Depression, and were accompanied by one of the strongest economic downturns in all of recent history. nine0009 At that time, many banks, including because of the not very thoughtful economic policy of the state, were ruined. Frightened depositors began to actively withdraw their deposits - and thereby ruined many banks, the position of which was quite stable, further worsening the economic situation and destroying the foundations for its recovery.

From this revealing story, the term “self-fulfilling prophecy” arose: banks that were financially prosperous went bankrupt due to the fact that people believed in their unreliability and imminent ruin. It was not the economic situation that brought their investors into distress - it was the behavior of people who believed in bankruptcy that ruined them. nine0003

Subsequently numerous studies confirmed the very real nature of self-fulfilling prophecies . It is worth mentioning some of them.

For example, it turns out that people who are credited with coldness in communication actually begin to show less warmth and friendliness (Ickes, Patterson, Rajecki & Tanford, 1982). Job applicants who are considered less suitable may actually begin to perform worse in interviews: it turns out that examiners, without realizing it, begin to ask them more complex and tricky questions (Word, Zanna & Cooper, 1974; Dipboye, 1982; Neuberg, 1989).

Self-fulfilling prophecies play a special role in school . Children who are considered more gifted by educators do indeed often get better grades—not because their abilities are really so far superior to those of their classmates, but rather because of the special attitude of teachers (Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968; Harris & Rosenthal , 1985). I am sure that each of us can easily recall many reverse examples from our own lives. How often teachers are prejudiced against students whose behavior seems to them not up to certain standards! At times, children with an IQ slightly below 70 may outperform truly gifted students (IQs above 120) in academic achievement due to greater perseverance and a more respectful attitude towards the teacher. nine0003

It is also worth noting that there are certain differences in the effect of self-fulfilling prophecy on men and women . Research (Christiansen & Rosenthal, 1982; Nelson & Klutas, 2000) has shown that men are more likely to create self-fulfilling prophecies and women are more vulnerable to them. Scientists explained this difference by the fact that society prepares men more for control over the situation, and women for the ability to listen to other people's opinions. At least this is true for America; such large-scale studies in modern Russia have not yet been conducted. nine0003

Unfortunately, in the upbringing of children, especially if there are several of them in the family, one cannot do without such prophecies. Very often, parents' disbelief in the child's strengths - or, conversely, their belief that he has abilities that he really does not have - leads to sad results.

We, employees of the Humanitarian Technologies Center , come across such examples very often. Almost every day, children come to us, confident, for example, in their love for chemistry - and, therefore, wanting to take up work related specifically to chemistry. At the same time, during testing and counseling, it turns out that many of these children have neither love nor abilities for mathematics, analysis and information processing. Scientific or engineering work is impossible due to knowledge of chemistry alone: ​​it is also necessary to constantly record and analyze the results obtained (working with information and mathematics), to be well versed in physics, to be calm about monotonous sedentary work. As a rule, in such cases it turns out that love for chemistry is simply caused by a good relationship with the teacher.

Very often there are other situations. Parents from the threshold say that they have no idea what to do with their child - he seems to be unsuitable for anything. However, when during the consultation and testing it turns out that the child has an excellent mathematical mind and excellent logical thinking , it turns out that in the previous school (where the teaching staff was more competent), the child studied well and with interest. It turns out that last year he was very successful with a tutor. At the same time, now, faced with constant condemnation and disbelief in his strength - both from teachers and from parents who mistakenly believed them - the child loses all desire to do anything.

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