Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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  • Topic: Self-fulfilling prophecy, Prophecy, Causality
  • Pages : 5 (1768 words )
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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More often than not, the outcomes of events that occur in a person's life is the product of the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. It is that which "occurs when a person's expectations of an event make the outcome more likely to occur than would otherwise have been true" (Adler and Towne, Looking Out, Looking In 66). Or restated, as Henry Ford once put it, "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you're right!" This brief research paper touches on the two types of self-fulfilling prophecies, those that are self-imposed and those that are imposed by others. Additionally, it gives a discussion on how great of an influence it is in each person's life, both positively and negatively, and how it consequently helps to mold one's self-concept and ultimately one's self.

The first topic of discussion is the self-imposed, or self-inflicted, self-fulfilling prophecy. This idea follows that if one has a preconception or notion of an outcome, then chances are that person will raise the possibility of making it so. Take for example these cases-in-hand that Channing Grigsby, teacher of self-esteem speaks of:

‘I can't handle this.' And guess what? We don't handle it well. If I tell myself I won't have a good time at the party I'm going to, I am likely to behave in ways that generate exactly that reality, eliciting from other people indifferent responses, proving my premise. ("A Course in Self-Esteem" 5)

Additionally, and antithetically, consider the example of the student studying for a mathematics test the following morning whose belief is that since he is and has been studying and has a good working knowledge of the subject area, that he will do well on the test and does so the following morning. When compared to another student doing the same but is less prepared and knowledgeable in the area and additionally thinks that he will fail and did, he performed better because of his positive expectation and preparedness. Take a moment to reconsider the inclusion of the idea of preparation in the example. Here, preparation is just as important a factor to consider because it is a variable that can greatly surpass the influence of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The other student who did not prepare well and did not know the material as well would have failed anyway, despite how great of preconceived thoughts he may have had. In this case, because the conception or expectation was unrealistic, what would have been a positive self-fulfilling prophecy turns out for the worse. The point in this case is that realistic expectations play a great role in promoting positive and negative outcomes. But chances are, if he had a positive outlook, despite his ill preparedness, he stay may have received a higher failing grade. Nonetheless, Grigsby's examples are interesting and does a great job of portraying what occurs in an individual's mind when that person is projecting or making judgements of what outcome a certain event is going to yield. It is so because not only are they uncomplicated enough to visualize, but also because they are examples that one may even recall having done. The greater message in this sub-category is that this kind of thinking can and does play a large role in helping to determine how and what one feels during pre-conceived events and the reality that is borne from it. In the case of the person thinking he will not have a good time at the party he attends, he ends up not having it because he generated responses that contributed to that outcome (i.e. not socializing, criticizing the home, etc.). As for the student who performed well on his math test, he partly did so because of good preparation and knowledge and a realistic expectation that the other was lacking. Or as Adler and Towne put it:

The self-fulfilling prophecy is an important force in interpersonal communication, but it doesn't explain or affect all behavior. There are certainly times when the expectation of an...
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