The Pygmalion Effect
Interestingly enough, ancient Greek mythology creates an archetype for a present day social phenomenon with an artist named Pygmalion. He carved a perfect woman from Ivory and fell in love with his own creation, naming it Galatea. Pygmalion desperately wished she was alive. With goddess Venus’s blessings and his true belief in his creation, Galatea was brought to life. Though the name originates from this allegory, the more precise nature of the Pygmalion effect is demonstrated in George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion”, in which Eliza Doolittle explains: “You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she’s treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins because he always treats me as a flower girl and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you because you always treat me as a lady and always will.” Your expectations of people and their expectations of themselves are the key factors in how well people perform at work. Known as the Pygmalion effect and the Galatea effect, respectively, the power of expectations cannot be overestimated. These are the fundamental principles you can apply to performance expectations and potential performance improvement at work. You can summarize the Pygmalion effect, often known as the power of expectations, by considering: •
Every supervisor has expectations of the people who report to him. •
Supervisors communicate these expectations consciously or unconsciously. •
People pick up on, or consciously or unconsciously read, these expectations from their supervisor. •
People perform in ways that are consistent with the expectations they have picked up on from the supervisor. The Pygmalion effect was described by J. Sterling Livingston in the September/October, 1988 Harvard Business Review. "The way managers treat their subordinates is subtly influenced by what they expect of them," Livingston said in his article, Pygmalion in Management. The Pygmalion effect enables staff to excel in response to the manager’s message that they are capable of success and expected to succeed. The Pygmalion effect can also undermine staff performance when the subtle communication from the manager tells them the opposite. These cues are often subtle. As an example, the supervisor fails to praise a staff person's performance as frequently as he praises others. The supervisor talks less to a particular employee. Livingston went on to say about the supervisor, "If he is unskilled, he leaves scars on the careers of the young men (and women), cuts deeply into their self-esteem and distorts their image of themselves as human beings. But if he is skillful and has high expectations of his subordinates, their self-confidence will grow, their capabilities will develop and their productivity will be high. More often than he realizes, the manager is Pygmalion." The Pygmalion Effect Study
In the 1960s, Harvard psychology professor Robert Rosenthal teamed up with South San Francisco elementary school principal Lenore Jacobson to conduct what later became known as the Pygmalion Effect study. In the study, 20% of the students within each of 18 elementary school classrooms were randomly assigned to a ‘high achiever’ group, with the remaining 80% serving as the control group. The teachers in those classrooms were told that these particular students in the ‘high achiever’ group had a superior IQ; even though the students were in fact chosen at random. By the end of the year, the students who were randomly assigned to the ‘high achiever’ group showed significantly more intellectual growth in the form of increased IQ points than the control group. In summarizing the book that Rosenthal and Jacobson co-authored about their study, James Rhem, executive editor for the online National Teaching and Learning Forum, said simply: “When teachers...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document