Press Esc to close
Friday 24 October 2014
News updated at 11:44 PM IST
Weather
Max: 0°C
Min : 0°C
In Bangalore
Sunny day

Why high expectations are good for you

Last updated: 10 February, 2010

There are simple techniques like the Pygmalion Effect, which teachers and parents could use to enhance children’s self-esteem and productivity, writes Ravindranath Nayak

Most parents are aware that a teacher’s expectations of a child often become self-fulfilling prophecies: If a teacher believes a child is slow, the child will come to believe that too, and will indeed learn slowly.

The lucky child who strikes a teacher as bright also internalises the teacher’s expectation and will rise to fulfil it. 

This is the power of a self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as the Pygmalion Effect. The essence of this prophecy is that people’s expectations determine their behaviour and performance.


The process starts with the development of expectations about a target person. These expectations are communicated, more or less consciously, to the target person. The target person notices and internalises these expectations and starts to behave as expected.

Pygmalion has a fascinating history.  He was a sculptor. According to Greek mythology, he created a statue of a beautiful woman. He prayed to the gods that the statue be transformed into a real woman. His wish was granted. And, from this mythical story came what is commonly known as the Pygmalion Effect, which states: People can be shaped by others, according to how they are treated.
 
What does research say?

The Pygmalion Effect plays itself out between teacher and student in the classroom; manager and subordinate in an organisation; and parent and child at home.

The performance of the target (student, employee or child) usually tends to adjust itself to the expectations of the powerful other (teacher, manager, parent).

The Pygmalion Effect is all about the complicated relationship between expectations and performance.

It suggests that the expectations of a teacher, parent or manager, even if they be off the mark, would still influence the behaviour of the student, child or employee.

The idea is that the way in which one person treats another can — for better or for worse —  transform one’s motivation, self-esteem and self-confidence.

Researchers in education and social psychology have found that a teacher’s perceptions continue to predict student achievement for up to seven years.

The Pygmalion Effect works best with people who have not met. The longer the two parties had been in contact prior to the experiment, the weaker the performance improvement, say researchers. 

Think positive

Self-fulfilling prophecies work in two ways: Not only do teachers (managers) form expectations of students (subordinates), but students (subordinates) form expectations of teachers (managers) too.

When sales persons are treated by their managers as super achievers, they try to live up to their image and do what they think super achievers are expected to do.

But when those with poor productivity are told, by word or gesture, that they have “little chance” of success, this negative expectation also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, resulting in lower productivity.

People are motivated when they believe that their behaviour will lead to desired rewards.

This explains how expectations, whether correct or not, affect the outcome of a situation.

As positive expectations are the foundation for creating a lively classroom or a happy, secure home, teachers and parents can create this by using the following techniques:

a) Recognise that every child has the potential to improve performance.
b) Enhance confidence in the child by setting high performance goals.
c) Provide constructive feedback when necessary.
d) Steer clear of personal prejudices.
e) Be sensitive to your non-verbal communication as well as your words.

Watch what you say

One of the ways to communicate high expectations is to reframe certain commonly used expressions. Some simple examples are: ‘I know you can do it’ instead of ‘I hope you can do it’.

The idea is not to advocate the manipulation of others by conveying deceptive cues. Rather, it is to attempt to bring out the best in others by treating them in a positive manner.

If teachers are unskilled, they leave scars on the psyche of young people, cut deeply into their self-esteem and distort their image of themselves as human beings. But if they are skillful and sensitive, they will ensure that their students are confident, secure and happy individuals with a sense of self-worth.

Go to Top

Photo Gallery
Hindu priest performs evening prayers called 'Aarti' on the banks of the river Yamuna...

Hindu priest performs evening prayers called 'Aarti' on the banks of the river Yamuna...

Dakshineswar Temple decorated with lights for the Kali Puja and Diwali at North 24 Pargana...

Dakshineswar Temple decorated with lights for the Kali Puja and Diwali at North 24 Pargana...

Firecrackers light up the sky as people celebrate Diwali festival in Mumbai...

Firecrackers light up the sky as people celebrate Diwali festival in Mumbai...

School students lighting earhen lamps at Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi...

School students lighting earhen lamps at Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi...

A view of decorated Madan Mohan Malviya Stadium with oil lamps during Deepwali festival...

A view of decorated Madan Mohan Malviya Stadium with oil lamps during Deepwali festival...

Illuminated Golden Temple on the eve of Diwali in Amritsar...

Illuminated Golden Temple on the eve of Diwali in Amritsar...

Children with special needs light firecrackers as they celebrate Diwali...

Children with special needs light firecrackers as they celebrate Diwali...

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers enjoy Diwali celebrations on the eve of Diwali...

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers enjoy Diwali celebrations on the eve of Diwali...

Hindu priests light oil lamps in a formation of the 'Swastika', a Hindu symbol of peace...

Hindu priests light oil lamps in a formation of the 'Swastika', a Hindu symbol of peace...

A Border Security Force (BSF) soldier lights sparklers on the eve of Diwali...

A Border Security Force (BSF) soldier lights sparklers on the eve of Diwali...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bangalore - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523