Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

How our belief becomes reality

By Basu Nepal

It is the psychological phenomenon where an initial misconception or belief turns out to be true just because it was believed to be true in the first place. If someone predicts or expects something then it’s more likely to actually happen, because the person believed it would happen and acted to make it happen.

In self-fulfilling prophecies, one’s belief about something or someone eventually comes out to be true because the person actually acted in a way which would make it happen for real.

For example: If a teacher has a bad first impression about a student that ‘a particular student is not hard working’, teacher may pass over and not give him good attention or proper guideline which would make that student less motivated to actually work hard, which when perceived by teacher, he thinks that the student is actually not hard working. It’s not because student is lazy or less working, its simply because of teacher’s perception toward him, he didn’t teach or guide him well to work hard which in return made student less motivated to work hard.

Due to self-fulfilling prophecies, there are occurrences of stereotype thinking. Stereotype means over generalized belief about a particular group of people, for example belief that girls are not good at math which is perfect example of stereotype thinking. It has no evidence to back it but it’s a well believed phrase. 

Lots of research of social psychology says other’s opinion not just matters, it shapes our life.

We have heard about phrases like other’s opinion doesn’t matter but lots of research of social psychology says it actually matters a lot.

In a case of student, teacher’s opinion about him actually made him work less. By listening to phrase like girls are bad at math, they are less likely to even try to learn or work hard thinking they could never be good at math which in turn actually makes them bad at math. So, other’s opinion about us can change our attitude and also influence our performance.

It is backed by research that other’s expectation about us can actually affect our performance which is famously presented by Pygmalion effect. It describes that high expectation can lead to improved performance in some area.

When people have a stereotypic mindset about us, they will behave in a way to actually confirm their belief, due to their belief and different behavior, we may actually end up fulfilling their prophecies, which is another type of self-fulfilling prophecies called as behavioral confirmation.

In a study about behavioral confirmation, it was found that other’s expectation or belief about us can have very long-lasting effect on us, it actually becomes true and can stay forever with us, thus in our example case student may never work hard again even if the teacher is not around him.

It’s scary to think that other’s belief can have lifelong impact on us, but most people also have a strong inner belief about themselves and motivation to actually overcome other’s belief. Since other’s and our own belief about ourselves can shape our reality it’s super important to have a high self-belief and high expectation about ourselves which ultimately makes our belief a reality.

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right both ways”

When someone have initial belief about us, they may be biased towards information that contradict their original belief thus sticking with their initial belief and at the end, it actually becomes correct due to their behavior towards you. So, it’s also important to have a good first impression which we will discuss in upcoming post.

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