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The Pygmalion Effect: The Impact of Expectations

Most everyone is familiar with The Pygmalion Effect, right?  This familiarity can come from the scientific studies of Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson during the late 1960’s or the 1911 psychological study of Clever Hans, a horse that was thought to be able to read, spell and do arithmetic.

Some of our lessons in The Pygmalion Effect may even date back to studies of ancient Greece.  In Greek mythology a legend exists that Pygmalion, the King of Cyprus, carved an ivory stature of what he considered to be the ideal woman.  Galatea, this ideal woman, was brought to life from statue form through the sheer strength of Pygmalion’s love for her and his own will.  This “will” has since become known as the Power of Expectations.  

Fast forward from ancient Greece, first to Broadway in 1956 for the musical “My Fair Lady”, and then on to Hollywood in 1964 for the film adaptation.

Simply defined, the Pygmalion Effect describes and details the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation is set for individuals, the better their performance will likely be.  In other words… people will and do live up to the expectations that are set for them.

In sociology, the Pygmalion Effect often deals with issues related to educational opportunities as well as social class.  In the workplace, the effect is most often seen in settings surrounding performance and promotional opportunities.  We will look at the workplace effects later this week.

InnerActive Consulting Group offers training on The Pygmalion Effect for leaders and managers.  Call us at 901-757-4434 for more information.   Let your expectations count!   Let us help you make them important!

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Judy W Bell

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