Pygmalion Effect


The phenomenon of greater expectations resulting in better performance.

It is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy named after a sculptor in Greek mythology whose beautiful creation came alive as he wished. It is also called the Rosenthal effect after Dr. Robert Rosenthal of Harvard University who demonstrated that you get what you expect.

In his experiment, three teachers of a school were called into the principal’s office and told that they had been found to be the best teachers in the school. Each of them would be given a class of the brightest students in the school. The children had been selected on the basis of IQ tests and the teachers were expected to improve the students’ achievements by about 30%. The delighted teachers went about their jobs with tremendous enthusiasm and commitment.

The researchers monitored the progress of the teachers and students for a whole academic year. The teachers spent extra time in tutoring students after school hours. At the end of the year, the three selected classes were far ahead of the rest of the school in grades.

Just as expected the progress was 30% in academic excellence. The principal summoned the teachers and congratulated them. The teachers reported that they had enjoyed the teaching even while handling difficult students.

At this point, the principal disclosed that it was just an experiment. The teachers named had been chosen by lottery and they were assigned classes randomly. In fact, the students were average. Needless to say, the teachers were surprised but discovered that with perserverance and commitment they could raise their teaching standards. It was thus proved that higher expectations bring better results.

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