What Is Pygmalion Effect? (Psychological Experiment)

Pygmalion Effect Explanation

Greetings, dreamers, and believers! Have you ever been told you could achieve something, and with that belief, you actually did? Welcome to the magical realm of the Pygmalion Effect, a place where expectations become reality. We go on a journey to uncover how the beliefs and expectations of those around us can sculpt our performance and transform our potential into achievement. Whether it’s in the classroom, at the workplace, or within our personal lives, the power of positive expectations has the remarkable ability to elevate our capabilities.

The Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect states that higher expectations lead to higher performance. Positive beliefs about a person’s capabilities impact behavior, influencing their beliefs about themselves. Their feelings affect their behavior towards you.

It confirms and strengthens their original beliefs, creating a cycle of challenging positivity. The term comes from Greek mythology about a sculptor named Pygmalion, who carved an ivory statue of a woman who fell in love with his creation. In despair, Pygmalion prayed to Venus, the goddess of love asking her to bring him a woman like a statue.

Let’s dive into this inspiring phenomenon together, exploring how the faith others place in us can unlock doors we never knew existed. Ready to see how high you can soar with a wind of belief beneath your wings? Let’s take flight!

What is Pygmalion Effect?

The Pygmalion effect manages the power of expectations and explores expectations’ positive and negative effects on others. Social psychologist Dr. Robert Rosenthal discusses the four factors of the expected cycle. We teach more to those from whom we expect more. We’re able to give them more information to do a better job.

One’s expectation about a person can eventually lead that person to behave and achieve in ways that confirm that expectation. – Dr. Robert T. Tauber

Neuroscience is a biological science concerned with the function of the brain and the nervous system. Scientists thought the brain was fixed and couldn’t change after childhood for many years. But advances in MRI scanning have shown that this could not be further from the truth. Brains change and adapt every day regardless of our age.

We are harnessing the power of neuroplasticity. Neuroscientists believe we have over 100 billion neurons in our brains capable of connecting to tens of thousands of others. Neurons are the brain’s building blocks. Each can make trillions of connections every second. We make new connections between neurons when we learn or expect a new skill. It becomes more accessible for the brain to follow this pathway.

The opposite of the Pygmalion Effect is lower expectations lead to lower performance. It’s called the Golem effect. The effect is named after the golem, a magical clay creature in Jewish mythology. In one legend, the golem was brought to life by a Rabbi to protect the Jews of Prague. The Pygmalion and Golem effects can have severe ramifications when a teacher, boss, coach, etc., has a personal bias against a particular ethnicity.

Also, both effects are self-fulfilling prophecies. Whether the expectations come from us or others, the effect manifests differently. Teacher Iowan Jane Elliott conducted an interesting, non-scientific experiment variation on this phenomenon in 1968.

Expectations influence and empower life goals. High expectations create positive results, and low expectations, on the other hand, decrease performance and motivation. This psychological phenomenon can affect any setting, and its impact can last a lifetime. Also, It expands your mind and sharpens your identity. Self-determination theory explores the roots of human motivation.

People have three basic needs relatedness, competence, and autonomy. Each need is important for dedication, passion, and happiness. But the last one, autonomy, plays a crucial role in self-confidence.

Autonomy is the ability to make independent decisions in life. It gives agency, and agency lets you hold onto your future. Self-efficacy This concept comes from a psychologist named Albert Bandura. It is very similar to autonomy. Autonomy is a human desire for control. Self-efficacy, on the other hand, is the perception of autonomy.

Pygmalion effect in love

Expectations and beliefs can influence how people perceive and interact with their partners in love and relationships. For example:

Positive Expectations: If one person holds positive expectations about their partner, believing that they are loving, caring, and supportive, they may behave in ways that align with those expectations. This can lead to increased effort, communication, and acts of affection, ultimately fostering a more loving and fulfilling relationship.

Negative Expectations: Conversely, if negative expectations are present, such as believing that a partner is untrustworthy or unfaithful, it may lead to behaviors driven by suspicion, jealousy, or withdrawal. These behaviors can create a tense and strained dynamic in the relationship, potentially impacting its quality and longevity.

Communication and Beliefs: Communication plays a crucial role in relationships. Individuals’ beliefs and expectations about their partners can influence how they interpret their words and actions. Positive beliefs may lead to more constructive and understanding communication, while negative beliefs can result in misinterpretation and conflict.

L love and relationships are complex and influenced by factors beyond the Pygmalion effect. They involve emotions, personal histories, values, and individual dynamics. While beliefs and expectations can have an impact, they are only part of the larger picture.

Pygmalion effect in simply psychology

In psychology, the Pygmalion effect, also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy, refers to the phenomenon where an individual’s performance or behavior is influenced by the expectations others have about them. Simply put, the Pygmalion effect suggests that people tend to live up to their expectations.

Here’s a simplified explanation of the Pygmalion effect in psychology:

Expectations: When others have positive expectations about anyone’s abilities or potential, they may treat that person accordingly, providing more attention, support, and opportunities for growth.

Perception and Treatment: People who are the target of positive expectations may internalize these beliefs and perceive themselves as capable. They may also receive more positive feedback and encouragement from others.

Performance Improvement: Positive expectations and treatment can motivate individuals to strive for success and perform at a higher level than they otherwise would have. They may put in more effort, exhibit greater confidence, and demonstrate increased persistence in achieving their goals.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: As a result of the positive expectations and enhanced performance, the initial expectations become fulfilled.

The Pygmalion effect highlights expectations’ power and impact on individuals’ behavior and performance. It demonstrates how our beliefs and attitudes towards others can shape their outcomes and ultimately influence their self-perception and achievement.

Pygmalion effect experiment

In 1963 Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal tried an experiment using a controlled laboratory environment. He had two groups of students coach rats through a maze. He said their rats were specially bred to be smart while telling the other group that their rats were dumb.

In actuality, there was no difference between the two groups of rats. All were ordinary lab rats randomly assigned to the bright or dull group. However, the ‘smart’ rats outperformed the dumb rats during the experiment. This showed that the coaches’ expectations and how they trained their rats due to those expectations affected the rats’ behavior.

Based on the success of his experiment, Rosenthal conducted an extensive study—this time with humans at an elementary school. Rosenthal administered an IQ test to students of Spruce Elementary School in South San Francisco. Afterward, teachers were told that some students were “intellectual bloomers” and should do better academically than their classmates.

The teachers were given a list of the bloomers’ names. In reality, 20% of the students were randomly designated “intellectual bloomers.” Over the next school year, the designated bloomers excelled as predicted. At the end of the study, eight months later, Rosenthal tested students using the same IQ test.

In all grades, students in the 20% bloomer group and the regular student control group showed the first IQ test again to the second IQ test. However, the intellectual bloomers gained more IQ points on average than regular students.

Overall, in grades first through six, the bloomer group showed a 12-point gain compared to an 8.5-point gain for the control group. First and second-grade bloomers showed significant IQ gains, averaging 27 points. It concluded that teachers expect their students’ potential, particularly young children.

Rosenthal’s study reverberated through the education system. Everyone has great potential. If only their teacher would encourage it! Rosenthal’s experiment was somewhat controversial and criticized for its weak methodology. Some felt that the IQ test Rosenthal used was flawed. Teachers at the school ended up feeling angry and betrayed.

Since then, researchers have endeavored to recreate Rosenthal’s study with varying degrees of success. Results seem most fruitful when the teacher’s behavior is subconsciously driven. Also, results are not as strong when teachers consciously create expectations.

Even so, the Pygmalion effect is a powerful tool and skill for encouraging. The effect is taught in educator and leadership management courses. Everybody adopts this effect in daily life.

We’ve seen how powerful a tool belief can be, transforming potential into reality and aspirations into achievements. It’s a testament to the incredible impact of positive expectations and the profound influence we can have on each other’s lives. We hope this exploration has not only inspired you but also sparked a desire to harness the power of belief in your interactions with others.

Thank you for joining us on this voyage of discovery. Until we meet again, cultivate an environment of positive expectations for yourself and those around you. Keep believing, keep inspiring, and let’s lift each other higher. Together, we can turn the invisible into the unstoppable. Fly high, and never underestimate the power of belief!

More Articles:

What Is Bandwagon Effect In Cognitive Bias

What Is Bystander Effect With Experiment

Facts Of Boomerang Effect


Mitchell, Terence R.; Daniels, Denise. “Motivation.” In Walter C. Borman; Daniel R. Ilgen; Richard J. Klimoski (eds.). Handbook of Psychology (Volume 12).
Raudenbush, Stephen. “Magnitude of teacher expectancy effects on pupil IQ as a function of the credibility of expectancy induction: A synthesis of findings from 18 experiments”. Journal of Educational Psychology.
Rosenthal, Robert; Jacobson, Lenore. Pygmalion in the classroom: teacher expectation and pupils’ intellectual development (Newly expanded ed.).

Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher.I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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