What is the Pygmalion-Rosenthal Effect?

The Pygmalion effect, also known as Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon by which Predictions end up altering Performance (or reality) which end up coinciding with those predictions.

 

Its name comes from the mythological Greek sculptor, Pygmalion, who carved such a perfect statue (Galatea), that he fell in love with it.

 

It is also commonly known as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.

  • A prophecy that happens, precisely because there is a prophecy that says it will happen.

Pygmalion Galatea and Golem effects

There are 3 famous ways in which this phenomenon takes place:

 

The Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect: This is the General term.

  • Every self-fulfilling prophecy, can be called “Pygmalion effect”.
    • However, commonly speaking, it tends to be associated to positive Predictions.

 

The Galatea effect: When Self-Perception alters self-Performance.

  • The Pygmalion effect can sometimes trigger the Galatea effect.
    • Depending on what people expect of you, your Self-esteem will vary.

 

The Golem effect: When Low Expectations negatively alter Performance.

  • By expecting the worst, the worst will happen.
    • It is commonly applied to human Relationships.

 

Let’s see our first example:

Pygmalion-Rosenthal effect example

 

In Economics, this phenomenon is very well known.

 

You can appreciate it perfectly in the Stock Market.

  • If an important analyst says “Crisis!”, the Market crashes.

 

Once this happens, people admire how accurate this statement was.

  • And we can’t know what would have happened if no one had said anything.

That is the most difficult thing about the Pygmalion effect:

  • You never know what would have happened if you hadn’t predicted anything.

 

In addition, this phenomenon occurs every day in our daily relationships.

And we don’t even realize it.

Pygmalion effect in Relationships

Think about somebody you don’t like.

  • Now, think about how many times you thought this person was going to do something bad to you… But in the end nothing happened.

 

Surely this has happened to you:

  • You think somebody is being late on purpose to annoy you (for example)…
    • But, in the end, you discover that you got confused with what time you were to meet.

 

Over the years, if you expect the worse of somebody, your relationship fades away.

  • You will always be on the defensive and, in the end, you will get tired.

 

This is the Pygmalion effect in a Relationship, and it happens everyday.

And that is why this effect is so important.

 

If you want to take care of your Professional relationships (and non-professional, of course) you should try to forget your personal biases towards certain people.

  • Else, your relationships will not be successful.

 

Do not expect anything from people, so as not to alter their behavior or yours.

Now that you know what the Pygmalion effect is and its most common forms…

 

… It’s time to see some examples:

Pygmalion-Rosenthal effect examples

We have chosen one example of each effect (Pygmalion, Galatea and Golem) so that you understand them better.

 

Let’s begin:

Harvest - Pygmalion effect example

 

Imagine that you are a Farmer.

  • You cultivate and harvest your own land.

 

Imagine that one year, you are completely convinced that it will be a bad year.

  • Maybe you saw a meteorology study, maybe you have some superstitions, etc.

 

As you want to get the best possible results, you decide to act:

  • You add more compost than normal.
  • You decide to alter the amount of seeds planted.
  • You decide to treat the land in a different way (chemicals, pesticides, etc).

 

Finally, the weather, rain, pests, etc… are like in any other year.

 

However, you altered your harvest so much that your results were worse than if you had done nothing.

  • The prophecy has fulfilled itself.

Running a Marathon - Galatea effect example

 

Now imagine that you like to run.

 

You’ve improved a lot in the past year but, you’re not sure you can run a marathon.

  • Running a marathon is your dream.

 

Then, you consult your Personal Trainer, and he says you are more than ready.

  • He really thinks you can do it.

 

After hearing this, your self-confidence skyrockets:

  • You are decided: You will run a marathon next month.

 

A month later you do it and, in the middle of the marathon, you constantly remind yourself that you can, that you can do it.

  • And you complete it successfully.

 

What happened here?

 

You can call it Pygmalion effect if you study this situation from the outside

  • The Personal Trainer’s predictions made you decide to do it.

 

… But, you can also call it the Galatea effect, if you study this situation from your (the runner’s) perspective.

  • Your self-perception made you complete the marathon.

An employee you don't like - Golem effect example

 

You have an new employee from another department who doesn’t seem very bright to you.

  • Maybe it is the way he talks, or because he is a bit introverted, etc.

 

When you have to assign tasks to your employees, you always give him the easiest tasks.

 

Over time, this employee becomes bored and loses interest in work.

  • The quality of his assignments decline and your suspicions get confirmed.

 

When you ask your boss to transfer him to his previous department he says:

  • “I am surprised, this guy is very smart, a little quiet, but extremely productiveWhat happened?

 

What happened is that your Low Expectations ended up Demotivating him.

  • In other words: The Golem effect.

Summarizing

The Pygmalion effect, also known as Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon by which Predictions end up altering Performance, which end up coinciding with those predictions.

  • It is also commonly known as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.

 

3 famous ways in which this phenomenon occurs:

  • The Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect: This is the General term.
  • The Galatea effect: When Self-Perception alters self-Performance.
  • The Golem effect: When Low Expectations negatively alter Performance.

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