Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Self-fulfilling prophecy refers to a prediction that becomes true as a consequence of having been made. In other words, the expectancy becomes a cause, so that what is expected comes true because it was expected. A self-fulfilling prophecy can be directed at oneself, another person, a group, or even inanimate objects. The process involves three steps:

1. An individual forms an expectation of a situation or target person

2. That individual’s expectations affect how he or she behaves in the situation or treats the target person

3. The situation or the target person is affected by that individual’s behavior in a way that validates the individual’s initial expectation

Therefore, if a teacher of a class predicts a fall in the students’ grades, then the prediction is likely to bring about a fall in the students’ grades irrespective of any other factors, because students will be more likely to perform poorly in the assessments. Hence, expecting a particular outcome from somebody will bring change in the behavior, and this, in turn, will influence other’s response which will ultimately reinforce the former’s behavior and that’s how self-fulfilling prophecy works.

Diogenes Syndrome or Senile Squalor Syndrome

Diogenes syndrome, also known as senile squalor syndrome, is a behavioral disorder that affects older adults. It is characterized by extreme self-neglect, poor personal hygiene, severe domestic squalor, excessive hoarding of trash, and social withdrawal. It occurs in both men and women.

The syndrome is named after Diogenes, the ancient Greek philosopher who showed ‘contempt for social organization’ and ‘lack of shame.’ People with this syndrome also show a lack of shame. They are often unaware that anything is wrong with the conditions they are living in and remain unconscious of their self-neglecting behavior. They usually live alone and may also displays symptoms of catatonia.

Diogenes syndrome is often linked to mental illnesses, such as dementia, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and addiction. Research suggests that it is most common among people with average intelligence, who are over 60 years, and are living alone.

The Pratfall Effect

Originally defined by Elliot Aronson, the PRATFALL EFFECT is a phenomenon in Social Psychology that states that an individual’s perceived likability increases or decreases after he or she makes a mistake, depending on that individual’s perceived competence. Thus, when brilliant people err, they appear more attractive or likable as compared to those who don’t commit any or are “perfect” in every sense. On the other hand, a person who is perceived average in terms of competencies would be considered less attractive and likable after committing the mistake.

This means that while the likability of an individual whom people admire or really look up to increases after he or she makes a mistake, the reputation or attractiveness of a perceived average individual would be adversely affected by it.

Pratfall effect occurs because perfection appears threatening to most people and they find it hard to associate with others who are highly competent, perhaps more so than themselves. Imperfect or flawed individuals, on the other hand, seem approachable and a lot less intimidating. Since competent people making mistakes appear more human, they seem to be more attractive and likable.

The Zeigarnik Effect

Named after a Russian psychologist, the Zeigarnik effect suggests that incomplete or interrupted tasks are better remembered. The phenomenon was inspired by Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin’s observation of waiters who had better recollections of orders that were unpaid. However, the waiters were unable to remember the details of the orders after they were paid. Zeigarnik took interest in the phenomenon and undertook a study to analyze the processes behind. His findings “On Finished and Unfinished Tasks” were published in a journal in 1927. In the experiment, participants were given a series of tasks like puzzles, or flat-pack box to complete. During the task, half of the participants were interrupted subtly by the supervisor, while half of the participants performed the tasks without any interruption. After the experiment was over, Zeigarnik interviewed the participants about the details of the tasks. The findings confirmed the observations of Lewin’s. Participants who were interrupted during the task were better able to recall the details as compared to those who were not interrupted.

The benefits of interruption can be explained by Lewin’s field theory, which states that a task that has already been started creates a task-specific tension; this tension, in turn, improves cognitive accessibility of content that is relevant. This tension, however, is relieved when the task is completed. In this way, when a task is interrupted, mind is unable to relieve the task-specific tension. This constant tension makes the content more readily accessible and easily remembered. This phenomenon has an application with students who are studying. It has been found that students who perform unrelated or irrelevant activities (studying different subject or playing sports) during studies, remember the content better than students who continue studying one subject without any interruption.

Delusional Parasitosis or Ekbom Syndrome

Delusional parasitosis, also known as Ekbom syndrome, is a delusional disorder which causes an individual to believe that he or she is infested with parasites or bugs without any infestation in real. The other name, Ekbom syndrome, came from Swedish neurologist Karl-Axel Ekbom, who wrote seminal accounts of the disease during late 1930s. Contrary to the cases of actual parasitosis, such as scabies etc., in which a skin infestation is present and identifiable through physical examination or laboratory tests, patients with this rare mental disorder have the delusional conviction that small organisms such as mites or insects have infested their skin. Individuals suffering from this condition report a sensation similar to insects crawling on or under their skin. Sufferers may injure themselves in attempts to be rid of the “parasites.” Delusional parasitosis is observed more commonly in women, and the prevalence is much more past the age of 40.

The Pygmalion Effect

The Pygmalion effect refers to the phenomenon in which a person’s performance is enhanced when greater expectation is placed on him.  The phenomenon is mostly seen in children, students or employees. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby an individual behaves the way others expect him or her to and thereby making the prediction to become true. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore F. Jacobson conducted the famous experiment on this phenomenon and published it in a book entitled Pygmalion in the Classroom (1986). In the experiment, experimenters conducted standard IQ test on children of an elementary school at the beginning of an academic year, and selected 20 per cent (about five children per class) at random, and told their teachers that the tests suggested that these children were potential academic ‘spurters’ who could be expected to show unusual intellectual gains in the year ahead. When the children were retested at the end of academic year, the ‘spurters’ showed massive IQ gains relative to the other children, especially in the first and second grades (6-7-year-old children). These gains were presumably due to subtle effects of the teachers’ expectations on the way they handled the children.

Foreign Accent Syndrome

Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is a medical condition as a result of which the patient suddenly develops such speech patterns that he or she is perceived to speak with a “foreign” accent without having acquired it in the perceived accent’s place of origin. FAS is most often caused by a stroke or traumatic brain injury. It may also be caused by migraines, multiple sclerosis, or developmental problems though in some cases no clear cause can be identified. This is a rare syndrome and therefore, it takes a multidisciplinary team of experts including neurologists, radiologists, neuropsychologists, clinical psychologist, and speech-language pathologists to evaluate and diagnose the syndrome.

The syndrome has been documented in cases across the world including accent changes from British English to French, American-English to British English, Spanish to Hungarian, and Japanese to Korean.

The speech changes related to FAS are characterized by fairly predictable errors; “uh” inserted into words; unusual prosody, including equal and excess stress (especially in multi-syllabic words); voicing errors (i.e., bike for pike); consonant substitution, deletion, or distortion; vowel distortions, prolongations, substitutions (i.e. “yeah” pronounced as “yah”); trouble with consonant clusters.

Door-in-the-Face Technique

Door-in-the-Face technique is a sequential request strategy often used for eliciting compliance by making a very large initial request, which the recipient is sure to turn down, followed by a smaller request. In other words at the start a big request is made which a person is expected to decline. Then a smaller request is made which the person finds difficult to refuse because they think they shouldn’t say “NO” again. The theory is that the initial rejection puts the other person in the mood to be more agreeable. Door in the face is an analogy to a customer slamming a door in the face of a salesperson after an unreasonable offer.

The technique was introduced in the year 1975 by a US social psychologist Robert B Cialdini and several colleagues who performed a field experiment in which students were approached on campus and requested to volunteer to spend two hours a week, for two or more years, as unpaid counselors at a local juvenile detention center. No one agreed to this, but when they were then asked whether they would be willing on just one occasion to escort a group of juveniles from the detention center on a two-hour trip to the zoos, 50 per cent agreed, compared with 17 per cent in the control group who received only the second smaller request.

Foot-in-the-Door Phenomenon

During the Korean War, many captured American soldiers were imprisoned in war camps run by Chinese communists. Without using violence, the captors secured their prisoners’ collaboration in activities ranging from running errands and accepting favors to making radio appeals and false confessions to informing on fellow prisoners and divulging military information. When the war ended, 21 prisoners chose to stay with the communists. Many others returned home “brainwashed,” convinced that communism was a good thing for Asia.

A key component of the Chinese “thought-control” program was their effective use of foot-in-the-door phenomenon, a tendency for people who agree to a small request to comply later with a larger one. It is a technique for eliciting compliance by preceding a request for a large commitment with a request for a small one, the initial small request serving the function of softening up the target person.

The Chinese exploited this phenomenon by gradually escalating their demands on the prisoners, beginning with harmless requests (Shein, 1956).

The technique was introduced and named by the US social psychologists Jonathan L. Freedman and Scott C Fraser in 1966. Research studies show that the foot-in-the-door tactic also helps boost charitable contributions, blood donations, and product sales.

The moral is simple, says Robert Cialdini (1993). To get people to agree to something big, “Start small and build.” And be wary of those who would exploit you with the tactic. This chicken-and-egg spiral of actions feeding attitudes feeding actions enables behavior to escalate. A trifling act makes the next act easier. Succumb to a temptation and you will find the next temptation harder to resist.

Reference: Myers, D. G. (1995). Psychology (4th ed.). Worth Publishers: New York.

Riley – Day Syndrome or Familial Dysautonomia

Riley – Day Syndrome, also known as familial dysautonomia, is an inherited disorder that affects autonomous nervous system of the body resulting in multisystem dysfunction. The symptoms of this condition however show when the related gene is passed on to the child by both the parents. The syndrome is named after American pediatricians Conrad Milton Riley and Richard Lawrence Day, who first described it in 1949.

The syndrome is strikingly characterized by lack of tears with emotional crying. In response to emotional stress or pain, patients rather experience episodic hypertension but no tears. Some other signs like decreased perception of pain and temperature changes and excessive sweating and blotchiness of the skin during excitement and eating are also associated with it.

Since body functions controlled by autonomous nervous system—blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, bowel and bladder emptying, digestion, and the senses, are affected, breath-holding spells, vomiting, constipation, reduced sense of taste, diarrhea, and feeding problems appear as other symptoms.

Social Loafing

Social loafing is social psychology phenomenon where individuals tend to exert less effort on a task when they are working as a part of a group than when working on one’s own. The term was coined by US psychologist Bibb Latané in 1979. However evidence has shown that the phenomenon greatly reduced when individual contributions are made identifiable within the group.

Evidence suggests that social loafing tends to occur when individuals contribute to a group product, whereas, coaction effects (the effect on an individual’s task performance of the presence of other individuals engaged in the same activity) tend to occur when individuals work in groups to produce individual products.

Maximilien Ringelmann, a French agricultural engineer first investigated the phenomenon during 1913. In one of his experiments, students pulled as hard as they could on a rope, alone and in groups of two, three, and eight; the results showed that, on average, groups of three exerted only two and a half times as much force as an individual working alone, and groups of eight exerted less than four times the force of a single person.

Stockholm Syndrome

I140508_152220_173418oTextTRMRMMGLPICT000033349019oStockholm syndrome is a psychological condition which causes a hostage to develop sympathy and support for their captor’s plight after spending some time with the latter. Such hostages might not run away or ask for help even when they get a chance and rather exhibit negative feelings against those who try to save them. They form emotional bond with their captors and become protective of them, even to the point of foiling their rescuers’ attempts. The name “Stockholm syndrome” was derived from a bank holdup in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973 when four people were held hostage for six days by two robbers and each hostage seemed to be defending the robbers’ actions.

The Bystander Effect

The bystander effect or bystander apathy is a phenomenon where a person in need is less likely to receive help if there are others present. The concept was popularized by two social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley. This happens as a result of diffusion of responsibility and social influence. When there are other observers present, the responsibility to take action is thought to be shared among all of them which makes individuals feel less compelled to act or help. This is referred to as diffusion of responsibility. Secondly, under social influence people tend to behave in socially acceptable ways. When others do not react to somebody’s distress, the individuals usually take this as a signal that neither a response is needed nor appropriate.