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Description: What do horses that seem to be able to spell and do math, grade school children, and stereotypes of poor people or smokers have in common? The Pygmalion Effect. Well that is not enlightening but what about expectancy effects and not their own expectancies but expectancies or assumptions that other have about them? How might our expectations about other people effect how those people behave in the world? No, telekinesis or other extrasensory abilities are NOT involved. Think for a minute about what might actually be involved that links those things together and then read the article linked below to see what psychological research tells us.

Source: The Pygmalion Effect: Proving Them Right, Shane Parrish, Farnam Street.

Date: April 7, 2019

Photo Credit: Public Domain,

Article Link:

So how many possible examples of the Pygmalion Effect can you come up with from your life? As we are most often acting in a social world, we need to note and acknowledge the social impacts of our expectations of those around us and the situations we and they are acting within if we wish to understand our own and others’ behaviours over time. Our expectations are things that we can change, for the betterment of the behaviors or others around us.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the Pygmalion Effect?
  2. Describe the Pygmalion Effect as it played out in the study of elementary school children but do so without blaming the teachers involved (there is an expectation you can change!)?
  3. Describe one or two places or regular situations in your life where you could potentially use the Pygmalion Effect to general advantage?

References (Read Further):

Samhita, L., & Gross, H. J. (2013). The “Clever Hans Phenomenon” revisited. communicative & integrative Biology, 6(6), e27122.

Ladewig, J. (2007). Clever Hans is still whinnying with us. Behavioural processes, 76(1), 20-21.

Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The urban review, 3(1), 16-20.

Friedrich, A., Flunger, B., Nagengast, B., Jonkmann, K., & Trautwein, U. (2015). Pygmalion effects in the classroom: Teacher expectancy effects on students’ math achievement. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 41, 1-12.’s_cognitive_ability_A_multilevel_analysis/links/5845559808ae8e63e627f799/Teacher-judgments-as-measures-of-childrens-cognitive-ability-A-multilevel-analysis.pdf

White, S. S., & Locke, E. A. (2000). Problems with the Pygmalion effect and some proposed solutions. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(3), 389-415.

Rosenthal, R. (1997). Interpersonal Expectancy Effects: A Forty Year Perspective.