The results were exactly what every teacher expected. The scholastic performance of the children was exceptional. Following the study, the teachers were eager to share with the researchers that working with these gifted children had been a delight and expressed their desire to work with such children all the time.
The researchers then informed the teachers that the children were not necessarily gifted, since they were chosen at random from all the students in the Chicago school system. And before the teachers could get swelled heads about their own teaching abilities, the researchers informed them that they, too, were chosen at random.
The remarkable results of this study have been labeled the Pygmalion Effect in the classroom. The teachers’ high expectations for the students helped the pupils believe in themselves and act accordingly. Since this study, several others have duplicated the results, thus reinforcing the reality that most people — young and old — rise or fall to the level of others’ expectations.
The reality that we influence others by our expectations is inescapable. The real question is how we choose to use our Pygmalion Power. Do we seek to enhance or diminish, intensify or dwindle, construct or destruct those we relate to with our expectations?
Parents use negative Pygmalion Power whenever they tell their children that they will never amount to anything; they will always be slobs; that they are too stupid to do well in school, that no one really likes them or that they probably won’t make the team.
Not surprisingly, these children tend to measure down to these low expectations.
Parents use positive Pygmalion Power whenever they tell their children they can do whatever they set their minds to do; they can organize and be responsible for their own lives, that its hard to believe anyone could resist such a charming guy, or that, with time and perseverance, they will find a position with the right team.
Not surprisingly, these children tend to measure up to these high expectations.
How are you using your Pygmalion Power?