Trust me, most of us have predicted certain things about someone, and we tend to respond to them in a way similar to what we predicted about them. For example, you have predicted that your professor is very boring. Thus, you don’t pay attention during his class and you give no feedback, and that creates a boring lecture (I found my biology teacher very boring, thus I made it a boring class). A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when you make a prediction or formulate a belief that comes true because you made the prediction and acted on it as if it were true.
Before reading further, let’s have a look at this scenario (I predicted that learning using pictures are way more effective, therefore I make it happen):
This scenario is an example of the self-fulfilling prophecy. This is how it works:
- You make a prediction or formulate a belief about a person or a situation. For example, you predict that you will fail your chemistry exam.
- You act as if your prediction or belief were true. You tend to avoid studying chemistry.
- Because you act as if the belief were true, it becomes true. Because of the way you act towards the exam, you will consequently fail that exam.
- You observe your effect on the results, and what you see strengthen your beliefs. You observe your marks, and this reinforces your belief that you are a failure when it comes to chemistry.
If you expect people to act in a certain way or if you make a prediction about the characteristics of a situation, your predictions will frequently come true because of the self-fulfilling prophecy. This has been demonstrated in widely different areas; for example, in leadership and athletic coaching.
The self-fulfilling prophecy is significant in all forms of communication. Consider, for example, the speaker who thinks the audience doesn’t want to hear his/her speech and so doesn’t rehearse or expand any energy in delivering the speech. Invariably, these people will be proved right, because they act in ways that encourage people to respond negatively. Such people fulfil their own prophecies.
Cons of self-fulfilling prophecy
- Your tendency to fulfil your own prophecies can lead you to influence another’s behaviour so that it confirms your prophecy.
- It distorts your perception by influencing you to see what you predicted rather than what is really there. For instance, you might see someone’s behaviour as creative because you are expecting this person to act creatively.
The idea of self-fulfilling prophecy is a very intriguing one and just goes to prove that the human mind has a very interesting mechanism of working. It makes us realise that not only can we predict something, we can indeed make it happen.
Kajendra Govindasamy is a psychology student from Malaysia. His research interests include interpersonal relationships, communication and marketing. He runs a blog on interpersonal relationship and similar topics. You can engage with him on Twitter @IDoYoutubing
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