Pygmalion effect: definition, experience, how to use it?

Pygmalion effect: definition, experience, how to use it?

The Pygmalion effect results from the positive outlook that an individual has on another and which will allow him to reveal the best of himself. How does this psychological mechanism influence our behavior at school, at work, in love? Answers with Johanna Rozenblum, clinical psychologist.

Definition: what is the Pygmalion effect or Rosenthal and Jacobson effect?

In social psychology, the Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal and Jacobson effect, is a self-fulfilling prophecy according to which the way we look at a person helps to condition their behavior in a positive or negative way. This psychological mechanism was theorized by the Americans Robert Rosenthal, psychologist, and Leonore Jacobson, school principal, in the 1960s, in San Francisco, in the United States, who carried out an experiment on children.

After giving IQ tests to elementary school students, the researchers gave erroneous results to their teachers so that they would not favor those who had higher potential. At the end of the school year, the psychologist and principal gave the students an IQ test again and found that those who had improved the most were the five the teachers thought were the best, not those who were classified as the most intelligent. This experience proved that it was indeed the interest that the teachers took in these students that allowed them to progress.

Beforehand, Rosenthal had carried out a first experiment by entrusting rats to two groups of students, making the first group believe that they had rats more intelligent than average even though the distribution had been done randomly. As a result, the rats in the first group, having been encouraged by their “masters”, convinced that they had exceptional rodents, crossed the maze more quickly.

What is the opposite of the Pygmalion effect?

The Golem effect corresponds to the negative side of the Pygmalion effect or Rosenthal effect. By hearing negative judgments about themselves, the individual ends up believing them and acting accordingly. An attitude that leads to lower performance. This opposite effect only works if the words are uttered by people exercising a certain authority on the subject (parents, teachers, superior, spouse) and can affect all areas of life. Like the Pygmalion effect, the Golem effect modifies an individual’s perceptions and goals depending on their degree of belief.

Why can the Golem effect be devastating?

The Golem Effect can literally destroy an individual’s self-confidence. For example, if a parent or teacher tells a child that he is bad at math, that he will never achieve anything in life and that he is shy, he will believe it and condition himself accordingly. . For what ? Because he trusts this person who has authority over him and he considers that his judgment is the right one. “Look, attention and confidence are essential for the child’s development. If the parent only conveys disappointment, fear and irritability, the child will become that child. A Conversely, if he sees confidence, hope, encouragement and pride in the eyes of his referent, he will also become this child. This is why we speak of a self-fulfilling prophecy “, comments Johanna Rozenblum. In the same way, if an employee is constantly belittled by his superior, he will internalize what he thinks of him and his professional performance will be lower.

School: how does the Pygmalion effect influence student performance in education?

The Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect demonstrates that through the gaze of an adult, and in particular a referent adult (parent, grandparent, teacher), the child changes his behavior to meet the expectations of his referents. “Thus, by showing him that we trust him, we allow him to become the best version of himself because he feels encouraged, surrounded, and able to face difficulties under the caring gaze of this adult referent. The more we tell students that they are capable and intelligent, the more they will gain self-confidence and the more their academic results will be affected. Conversely, the more we have excessive expectations and judgments towards them, the less satisfactory their results will be”develops the clinical psychologist.

What are the consequences of the Pygmalion effect?

The consequences of the Pygmalion effect are beneficial. “Generally speaking, the Pygmalion effect highlights the fact that by changing our outlook on others, we can give them new skills and new tools of confidence, which increases their chances of success. what we call positive conditioning, as opposed to negative conditioning which would lead a child to believe that he is not capable or that he must be careful because he is in danger. argues the specialist.

Good in his body, good in his head!

Application: how to use the Pygmalion effect in love, at work in management?

To promote the Pygmalion effect in love, at work or at school, you should encourage others, trust them, compliment them regularly and value their qualities so that they can be convinced of their own abilities. and reveal the best of themselves. The Pygmalion effect has a real effect on motivation and improving mood. Simply believing in someone’s success greatly increases their chances of success. “However, the Pygmalion effect at work sometimes clashes with the loss of self-esteem inherited from our childhood. If a person reaches adulthood with imposter syndrome, low self-esteem and low self-confidence, it will be difficult to rise in the eyes of a work colleague or a manager given the weight of the past”would like to qualify Johanna Rozenblum.