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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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Submitted By scheek555
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The self-fulfilling prophecy is a process that has the tendency for people’s expectations to influence their attitudes and behavior. Prejudice can serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy by influencing how the prejudiced person acts towards the target, which may, in turn, influence the target to act in a way that confirms the first person’s prejudices (Taylor, Peplau, & Sears, 2006).

A self-fulfilling prophecy includes three steps. First, one person must hold a false belief about another person. Second, the person holding the false belief must treat the other person in a manner that is consistent with it. A teacher who overestimates a student’s ability would have to treat the student as if she or he is highly capable. The teacher may often call on that student, spend extra time with that student, teach that student especially difficult material, and provide that student with feedback contingent on performance. For example, on the first day of Jane Elliott’s experiment, she told her students that possessing blue eyes indicated superiority in intelligence and conferred extra classroom privileges and having brown eyes indicated inferiority. Third, the person about whom the false belief is held must, in response to the treatment she or he receives, confirm the originally false belief. For example, quickly, the students with the “superior” color began to oppress those with the “inferior” color and those with the “inferior” color exhibited negative self-worth and fear.

The student who is treated as if she or he is highly capable may enjoy and value school and, consequently, invest more time and effort on school work than other students do. In turn, this student may ultimately learn more than other students in the class, thereby confirming the teacher’s originally false belief that she or he was highly capable.

The next day, Elliott reversed the exercise, telling the students that her statements of the previous day were untrue and that the reverse situation now prevailed. The same children who had been oppressed the day before quickly took on the role of oppressors and vice versa.

Why did the participants feel inferior when they were in the oppressed group? People are sensitive to non-verbal signals which are a part of everyday interaction. We can pick up what someone expects of us from a host of subtle cues, including their tone of voice, their posture, the timing of what they say and do, and so on.

Personally, teachers have expectations of their students based on their race, gender, ethnicity, and religion and that these expectations may lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. This is relevant to stereotypes. The experiment proves that racism is a learned behavior, not inherited.

Additionally, self-fulfilling prophecies in families are particularly common. For example, as a parent, I established plans for my children’s careers, approval of boy and girl friends, religion, and political association.

Social perception. (2013, September 22). Retrieved from Wikipedia: Taylor, S. E., Peplau, L. A, Sears, D. O. (2006). Social Psychology, 12th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Publishing.…...

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