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.