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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Definition, Examples and Effects

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Self-fulfilling prophecy is a concept in psychology that suggests that a person’s expectations about a situation can influence their behavior in such a way that it causes the expected outcome to come to pass. This phenomenon is often seen in social situations, where a person’s expectations can shape the behavior of those around them.


Examples: One example of a self-fulfilling prophecy is when a teacher has low expectations of a student. The teacher’s expectations can lead to behaviors such as not providing the student with challenging work or not providing the student with positive reinforcement. This can lead to the student not performing as well as they could, thus confirming the teacher’s expectations. Another example is when a person expects to be rejected by someone they are attracted to. This expectation can lead to behaviors such as avoiding eye contact or not speaking up, which can lead to the person being rejected, thus confirming their expectations.


Effects: Self-fulfilling prophecies can have both positive and negative effects. On the positive side, they can lead to improved performance and increased motivation. For example, if a person expects that they have the ability to do well on a test, they may study harder and perform better than they would have otherwise. On the negative side, self-fulfilling prophecies can lead to decreased performance and decreased motivation. For example, if a person expects to fail a test, they may see studying as pointless and may not perform as well as they could have.


Overall, self-fulfilling prophecies can have a powerful influence on our behavior and our outcomes. It is important to be aware of our expectations and how they can shape our behavior and the behavior of those around us.


Do you want to expand your knowledge on this topic? Read our full in-depth article on cognitive biases.


Do you have extra 15 minutes today? Take our fun and interactive quiz to learn which of 16 reasoning styles you use, your overall level of rationality, and what you can do now to improve your rationality skills.

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