Pygmalion Effect

The Pygmalion Effect is based on others’ expectations about us and how those opinions modify our behavior.  It has been shown that when people have high expectations for us, our performance improves. Robert Rosenthal conducted research on how teachers responded differently towards students when they believed they were working with high potentials. When a teacher thought a student was a “bloomer”, they had higher expectations for achievement and provided more guidance. The irony is that the students were not high achievers. Rosenthal states, “When we expect certain behaviors from people we treat them differently and that treatment is likely to affect their behavior.” When parents, teachers, and bosses believe in us and anticipate that we can achieve success by elevating expectations, we usually rise to the challenge.

The Pygmalion Effect is a different aspect of the “thinking as if” technique. Others are “thinking as if” for us. Evaluating what external judgments or expectations have been placed upon us provides insight into how we value or limit ourselves. Realizing we have internalized these judgments provides opportunities to accept or reject others’ assumptions. The other aspect of the Pygmalion Effect is how our expectations may impact family, friends, and co-workers and ultimately influence their potential. I always find it interesting the labels that family members place on each other and how people live out those identifiers. I was fortunate to have a friend who believed in me when I was struggling my first semester at college. I rarely cracked a book in high school so my study habits were lacking in college. My friend encouraged me to bring my grades up the second semester so I would have a choice about returning to school the next year. He believed in me and did not criticize me for my poor grades. He challenged me to discipline myself to achieve success because he knew my potential. The gift of that conversation reverberates in my life every day. Because someone believed in me and challenged me to increase my efforts, I benefitted from the Pygmalion Effect.


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Question: How has the Pygmalion Effect worked in your life and/or how have you used it with others?

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All information contained on this website are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to be taken as medical or other health advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical professional. IN THE CASE OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, IMMEDIATELY CALL 911.

Diane Foster

Diane’s life mission is “to be of service”. For the past 20 years, she has coached executives and individuals on how to change their lives. Her coaching has encompassed guiding executives on leadership competencies as well as working with individuals to manifest their greatest potential.

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