Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: How It Impacts Our Choices
 

    Angela B. van Gerven

       Department of Psychology
       Saint Anselm College, New Hampshire


#Abstract
Introduction
Conclusion
References

    Acknowledgements

 I would like to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the entire Psychology Dept., especially to Professor Maria McKenna, whose dedication to her students on a daily basis is evident. Your generous help has never felt like an imposition.  Thank you Professor Flannery for nurturing my initial ideas that helped foster my thesis. Thank you Barbara Bartlett for your unselfish desire to accommodate copies with a warm and pretty smile and without a moments notice. Thank you Professor Paul Finn, for your strong words of encouragement when I thought I wasn’t smart enough to pass Behavioral Statistics.  You made me believe in myself when I believed there was no hope. Thank you Janet Caron Dole, my best friend and confidant.  You were the impossible link that was necessary to complete my education.  Through good times and bad, you never let me down.  You made me realize that getting a “C” isn’t the end of the world, that I am still the best that I can be, that it is more important to accept one’s own shortcomings and concentrate on the good.  Finally, I would like to thank my beautiful precious children who are at the core of my existence.  It is for you that my educational process began, for there is no greater reward than knowledge.  To my loving husband Raymond, thank you for completing my world, for without you it wouldn’t make sense.
 

Abstract:

Many people throughout their lives experience uncertainty especially with regard to their own interpretations or their own self-image. “A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when a perceiver’s false beliefs leads to it’s (sic) own fulfillment” (Merton, l948 p. 195).  Evidence for a poor self-concept or a low self-esteem may in some instances become a precursor for this problem. Certain social environmental situations, whereby a stigmatized person feels inferior may also heavily influence the choice for a self-fulfilling prophecy to occur.  Many significant aspects of this topic are evaluated which can offer a reasonable explanation for the propensity for this to happen, as well as a new perspective in a preventive measure by which to follow in the future. top of page


Introduction

Many prominent social scientists have had the courage to explore the complications involved in defining self-concept and the interest that lies in defining the role that a self-fulfilling prophecy may play in our lives.  Robert Merton is one who sheds light on this subject through his explanation of the “late bloomer”, and the ability to recognize excellence (Merton, l973).  Here he is talking about a test for “future doctors”, but can be utilized for all professions.  Certain personality types, such as “the rampart type of ability, “the plateau type”, “the slow crescendo type”, and finally, “the late-blooming type” are examples to illustrate this point (Merton, l973).  Merton goes on to explain that “the late bloomer” is so slow in getting started and also that this type will be overlooked (Merton, l973).  Some of these “late bloomers” probably never get to bloom at all, and these children are the ones who will fall through the cracks because they never manage to make it on their own (Merton, l973).
 A critical point here is to understand that these children are not recognized for their abilities and are subsequently overlooked by the institutional system with little promise if any, to succeed (Merton, l973). It is crucial to specify that it will be at this point that the potentiality for these children to believe in themselves is very poor and that their self-image is extremely low.  Their own image of potentiality and achievement has been tarnished.  “And it is the images that institutional authorities have of us that in particular tend to become self-fulfilling images: if teachers, inspecting our Iowa scores and our aptitude-test figures and comparing our record with that of our age-peers, conclude that we’re run-of the mine and treat us accordingly, then they lead us to become what they think we are” (Merton, l973, p. 438).
  In a study conducted by Jussim (l989), it was hypothesized that teachers’ expectations sometimes produce a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Jussim (l989) tested this hypothesis by using data from teachers and students in a sixth grade math class in a public school district.  She specifically looked at past achievements, teachers’ expectations, motivational variables such as self-concept, effort, and time spent on homework, as well as intrinsic and extrinsic value on math tests.  As a result, both the grades and standardized test scores provided measures for this performance which allowed comparisons between teachers’ judgment as well as the students’ performance levels (Jussim, l989).teacheexpectation factor (Jussim, l989).This study cannot conclusively tell us that a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs as a result of how these students perceive themselves with regard to a classroom environment, but one might be persuaded to consider the possibility.
Other more recent studies have shown us that there are some underlying characteristics that help us understand how and why it happens that a self-fulfilling process can take place.  Some of these that apply to us on a more personal level are for example: our own expectations, a poor self-concept, our ego identity, or the need for self-verification.
On a more social level, where social interactions are more readily conducted, complications could arise from stigmatization and the expressions of prejudice may occur in an environment where people may stereotype others.  Also, attribution and performance and the ability to create a social reality (Jussim, l99l) for ourselves are possible.   The challenge to begin to understand more about the process and important factors that support the building blocks for the criteria for a self-fulfilling prophecy can be best described through our everyday experiences in social settings.   Because our choices should be positively motivated, the impact of our poor choices can be detrimental to our own self worth.  What then can we expect in these social environments?  As we can see, studies that were conducted in the classroom provide some answers to these questions.  Interestingly, it was the expectations that teachers had of their students that sometimes produced a self-fulfilling prophecy (Jussim, l989).

Teacher Expectations and Student Achievements

 In the same longitudal study that was performed by Jussim, (l989), which consisted of sixth-grade math students, it was noted to what extent a teacher’s expectations may predict a student’s achievement level.  Consistent with the self-fulfilling prophecy, the perceptions of the teachers of talent predicted final grades and MEAP scores, (MEAP scores refer to scores on the math sections of the California Achievement Test and the Michigan Educational Assessment Program) (Jussim, l989). Even when their prior achievement tests and their motivation were similar that is, in terms of self-concept, effort time on homework and the value placed on math, it was the high-expectancy student (specific expectancies could have higher predictive validity) who received the higher grades and their standardized test scores than did the low-expectancy students (Jussim, l989).  Efforts were made to look more closely at the effects of teachers’ expectations with regard to student motivation, as well as their achievements, and it was found that the only evidence of self-fulfilling effects of teacher expectations on student motivation was an effect of teacher perceptions of student performance on students’ self-concept of ability (Jussim, l989).  The results showed that if students perceived themselves as performing highly, early in the year, then they increased their self-concepts of math ability by the end of the year (Jussim, l989). Here we might observe that the propensity or the pattern for a self-fulfilling prophecy to occur could be indicative of the students’ already established, perceived notion as to what was to be in store for himself.  In other words, if he/she had thought positively for outcome, then in fact a positive outcome would transpire accordingly.
 These results provided support for the self-fulfilling effects of teacher expectations on student motivation, but they provided very little evidence that student motivation mediated self-fulfilling prophecies (Jussim, l989).  There were no significant effects found on the performance regarding the student’s motivational variables, except for the effects of student self-concept of ability on grades. Again, we can see a relationship for the student to perceive him/or herself to hold a positive perception, which then in turn leads to a positive result, from which to build, or the choice to view him/or herself negatively, which in turn would transpire into a more negative point of self concept.
 In her study, Jussim, (l989) also hypothesized that teachers’ expectations would influence their judgments of the students’ performance. These biases could affect the grades that the teachers may assign without influencing the scores on objective standardized tests.  In conclusion, these results did not provide evidence that the teachers’ perceptions of the students’ performance biased students’ grades.  It is only fair to explain that perhaps teachers’ perceptions of students’ efforts biased their evaluation because of other reasons such as a way to reward hard-working students or perhaps a way to punish lazy students (Jussim, l989).  When we hypothesize the reasons for a self-fulfilling prophecy to occur in a given situation and environment like the classroom, it is important to consider that other variables might be contributing to the full picture, but biases are a very important aspect of human behavior when one easily begins to draw conclusions based on opinion alone.
 


    “Pygmalion in the Classroom”

 One of the most powerful and famous studies in which to demonstrate self-fulfilling prophecy is the one conducted by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson. In their book entitled, “Pygmalion In The Classroom”, a portrayal of a common waif that is turned into a remarkable fair lady), they depict this character as having the ability to be transformed by her teacher into this respected lady.  Rosenthal and Jacobson (l968) decided to conduct this experiment in a public school in a lower-class community where there were a minority group of Mexican children, who also comprised about one-sixth of the population (Rosenthal & Jacobson, l968).  Every year about 200 new children are enrolled into the school, and about 200 of its 650 children leave the school. An ability-tracking plan was implemented at Oak School whereby each of the six grades was divided into fast, medium and slow classroom levels.  Rosenthal and Jacobson, (l968) wanted to find out whether teacher’s favorable or unfavorable expectations could possibly result in an increase or a decrease in the pupils’ intellectual competence.  First, the children from the Oak School were pre-tested with the standard nonverbal test of intelligence, and the teachers were told that this test would indicate intellectual “blooming” in the student.
 The Oak School children were retested with the same IQ test after the first semester, after an academic year, and then again after two full academic years. After the first year of the experiment it was found that the first and second graders had a significant expectancy advantage, meaning that some children displayed a higher IQ before testing took place.  It was obvious that having been expected to bloom was an advantage, with these younger students in total IQ, verbal IQ and reasoning IQ. .  No dramatic differences were found between boys and girls with regard to favorable expectancy. The results showed that favorable teacher expectations seemed to help each sex more in that particular sphere of intellectual functioning, where they had done well on the pretest.had showed the greatest expectancy advantage, but that the children of the other tracks dragged close behind.   It was surprising to see that it would be the more average child of a lower class school who stands to benefit more from the teacher’s expectancy. After both the first and the second year had passed, the results indicated that the Mexican children showed greater expectancy advantages than did the non-Mexican children.   Magnitudes of expectancy advantage were correlated with the “Mexican-ness” of the children’s faces, and after one year, boys who looked more Mexican benefited from their teachers’ prophecies.
In general then, the children who had been expected by their teachers to behave in a certain way ended up doing so for the most part.  All the teachers were asked to rate their pupils on intellectual curiosity, personal and social adjustment and the need for social approval.  Children who had been expected to gain intellectually, were rated as more intellectually curious, as happier and especially in the lower grades as less in need of social approval.  It was the younger children who showed the greater expectancy advantage with regard to their teachers’ expectation.  Children of the medium track were most advantaged because they were expected to bloom, but this time because of perceived greater intellectual curiosity and not the need for social approval.   Rosenthal and Jacobson, (l968), draw many conclusions in their study, but one that is of most concern to our readers with regard to self-fulfilling prophecy is that teachers simply treated their children in a more receptive pleasant manner when they expected greater intellectual gains, in which case we can logically conclude a positive response, in other words, an improved intellectual performance.  Disadvantaged students should never be biased against for their shortcomings, yet on the other hand advantaged students should also be treated appropriately for the special talents they possess.  It is evident that the teacher experiences difficulty in trying to be objective when as a teacher conducting herself in the classroom may believe in her own interpretations.  “The self-fulfilling prophecy is in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true”; “the specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error” (Merton, l948, p.l95).

Study Links to Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

In a study conducted by Bushman, (l999) it was hypothesized that media endorsement for catharsis produces a self-fulfilling or a self-defeating prophecy. The study was conducted by asking participants to read a procatharsis message, claiming that aggressive action is a good way to relax and reduce anger (which produced a greater desire to punch a bag than the participants who read an anticatharsis message (Bushman, l999).  Then participants were asked to read the same messages and then actually did hit a punching bag.  It was found that the people who read the procatharsis message and then hit the punching bag were more aggressive than were the people who had read the anticatharsis message. The results showed that people do believe that venting one’s anger helped reduce that anger and so did so, but then when they were led to believe catharsis worked and they chose to seek it as a release, it did not work. These results showed that even a little boost of potentially self-fulfilling prophecy did not make enough of a difference to create catharsis effect (Bushman, l999).
In another study conducted by Zebrowitz, (l998), it was hypothesized that babyfaced adolescent boys would compensate for their undesirable expectation that they would exhibit some of their child like traits by behaving in the opposite way. This study showed that babyfaceness could produce negative behaviors, and these boys were more likely than maturefaced boys to be delinquent, and as a result babyfaced delinquents had a greater propensity to commit more crimes. Here evidence indicates that stereotypes that depict a particular appearance do not yield a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In another study authors used the “bogus-item” methodology originally utilized by (Wickless & Kirsch, l989, as cited by Benham, l998), to look at the degree to which a person may respond to hypnosis is remarkably stable over time. It was questioned whether this stability reflects cognitive ability, or a certain personality trait of “hypnotic susceptibility”. The results of the first experiment failed to demonstrate a significant effect on hypnotic responsiveness for the bogus item manipulation, and there were no significant effects on hypnotic responsiveness that may have been attributed to the timing of debriefing.  Results suggested that hypnotic responsiveness might not be a reaction in people with regard to expectancy manipulations, that perhaps hypnotic responsiveness could be a susceptible trait in people’s personality (Benham, l998). Another interesting study conducted by Kirsch, (l999) on the subject is indicated whereby authors provided an overview of various literatures on people who might respond automatically in the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy and how there may be a link psychologically to automatic processes . This study reveals that perhaps behavior may be initiated automatically, but that the authors conclude that clinical practice may be enhanced because of these automatic processes that influence experience.  Nothing conclusive was found and that additional research was needed to validate the use of automatic processes in the area of psychotherapy (Kirsch, l999).

Expectancy Effects and Stigma

Studies have shown that a childhood stigma can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy and may have long lasting adverse effects.  A study conducted by Harris (l992), indicates this problem where the author describes a story told to her about a student in one of her psychology classes where he was diagnosed as learning disabled (Harris, l992).  This study reviewed the knowledge about the consequences of stigma and also looked at the expectancies and results of children’s behavior with or without behavior problems (Harris, l992).  Considerable studies and research has shown that expectancy effects do happen (Rosenthal & Rubin, as cited by Harris, l992), although less is known about their processes or expectancy effects in the real world (Jussim, l99l).  Also, research in this area has generally been done on teacher expectancies, and has obviously shown a bias for positive notation (Harris, l992). In this instance “positive notation” refers to the fact that we want to see teachers in a positive light. But from a social perspective (Jussim, l990), it is more important and critical to review the negative expectancies, and this might shed more light on the subject of why self-fulfilling prophecies may occur.

Expectancy Effects and Children

It seems that although research has been done in the classroom with regard to teachers, there hasn’t been enough research on expectancy effects and children.  Children have often been used as targets, but very few studies have looked at peer interactions where children are the perceivers (Harris, Milich, Johnston, and Hoover, l990, as cited by Harris, l992).  It seems that children’s interactions with regard to stigma is very important in this area of study.  Children do not always abide by these standards, and their interpretations of the stigmas have a wide range of acknowledgments, such as staring, peer rejection, taunts, and teasing (Harris, l992).  These situations make it hard for children to learn and concentrate in the classroom. In a study conducted by Harris, (l990) children with ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, were examined and tested to see if the ADHD label could in fact operate as a powerful expectancy (Harris, l992).  In this  study, forty normal boys between the ages of eight and eleven were videotaped while they were playing with another normal boy of their own age.  The researchers told the perceiver  (for half the dyads) that the partner was in a special class because he had a behavior problem, and it was explained to them the characteristics of this behavior problem (Harris, l992).  After analysis had been conducted, it showed that the targets that had been labeled with the stigma of hyperactivity thought that the task was harder and made less ability attributions for the performance (Harris, l992).  On the whole, the perceivers were judged to be much less friendly, spoke less often, and in general, were less involved in interactions (Harris, l992).  This study shows us that there are significant perception differences when stigmatized children are involved.   This study indicates that a self-fulfilling prophecy is possible when a normal child’s expectations about stigmatized peers can cause negative interactions, that so often parallels a stigma (Harris, l992). This study provided us with some keen insights regarding significant effects that stigmatization has on children (Harris, l992), as well as the insight into the processes underlying interpersonal expectancy effects and more importantly, the children’s reactions to others with a stigma (Harris, l992).
 


Children and the Stigma of ADD/ADHD

Dr. Breggin, a well-known psychiatrist, has written a book about the concerns that parents have about their children after being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
He briefly describes a story about a son whose father had served in the military, and had decided to also pursue a career in the Army just like his dad.  The story becomes complicated because this boy named Ian, had already had difficulty in school, but was later prescribed Ritalin to help him with the typical problems that come with having ADD/ADHD.  Drug therapy really helped Ian along nicely, but some of the side effects that are characteristic of Ritalin such as nervousness, trouble sleeping and weight loss troubled him, yet he continued to take it.  Later when he went to the Army he decided to stop taking Ritalin, because he didn’t like what it was doing to him.  Ian scored very well on the examination entrance exam, but lied about the fact that he had been on Ritalin the year before.  The Army found out about it and so consequently told him that they could not induct someone like him who had taken Ritalin after the age of twelve.  Ian’s father pulled some strings for him and Ian was able to get in anyway, but was labeled, “lackadaisical”, rather than ADHD (Breggin, 2001).  Ian never really went anywhere in the Army because they put a ceiling on his level of responsibilities, no matter which job they gave him.  Even though Ian was great in computers, they never gave him any higher assignment.
 .
Ian and his father did not seem to have much self-esteem left after their experience with the army and it is no wonder why they would have.  Ian had to struggle with choices that he was left with when in reality he should have had every opportunity to be the best he could be.  When he chose to take himself off of the Ritalin he obviously lost his focus and his self-control, which is usually the case with ADD/ADHD.  This lack of self-control can perpetuate into a self-fulfilling prophecy diagnosis limits our expectations and encourages children to give up self-control” (Valentine, as cited by Breggin, 2001, p. l2l).  Therefore, this low self-esteem child might not be so easily influenced by their parents’ good values, and instead will be influenced by their peer groups (Madon, 2003).  This might suggest that the expectations of the parents may produce a stronger self-fulfilling prophecy among the children that show a high self-esteem (Madon, 2003).

                    Self-Concept Influences

Self-concept may in fact influence how we perceive ourselves to be and in some instances can set limitations where our choices are concerned.  If we are not careful, we can easily slip into a ready made self-fulfilling prophecy.  When we make a negative self-assigned status, such as I think that I am  “unlovable”, “inadequate”, “irrational”, “incompetent”, “worthless” or just “inferior”, we can see that we have already resigned ourselves ineligible to participate in life (Bergner, 2000, p. 2). If we find ourselves unlovable, like poor Charlie Brown did, then there seems to be no hope at all in participating in this life, because we think no body can love us.  If we think that we are inadequate, then we feel we will never measure up.  If we think that we are incompetent we never gain the confidence to do anything worthwhile.  Tragically, this can become the case. “Along with restricting the behavioral possibilities of people, the self-concept has important implications that will show how a person will deem appropriate to act” (Bergner, 2000, p. 3). 

There are many facets to the self-concept, and there are well-documented facts about self-concept that say that it possesses a peculiar resistance to change in the face of disconfirming facts (Baumeister, l995, as cited by Bergner, 2000).  It seems that a man will continue to believe himself inferior even though that people know it to be the contrary, yet he still believes what he wants to believe.  A woman believes that she is selfish, and despite the fact that her close friends tell her otherwise, she still contends that she is selfish.  World-famous musicians and actors, even though they have great reviews about their performances will still continue to think that they will fail and make a fool of themselves and flop on stage (Bergner, 2000).   “Self-concept does not function as an informational entity, but as a positional one, and by noting the way that positional conceptions function vis-à-vis factual input” (Bergner, 2000, p. 4). cited by Bergner, 2000, p.4).   For  the most part, it seems that children do tend to accept the role status that they have been assigned by others (Marshall, l993, as cited by Bergner, 2000).  How the children acted and saw themselves and how they incorporated their new attributes all contributed to this status because of the labeling placed upon them by their parents, or caregivers.  Some of these consequences can be devastating as well as permanent, but on a lighter note, your own personal attributes has a lot to do with the final outcome. 

 An interesting study conducted by Madon, (2003), examined mothers and the expectations they may have about their children’s drinking habits, and her influence over the children’s future alcohol consumption use through a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Three areas were investigated with regard to children: the children’s self-esteem, the social class of the family, and the valence of mother’s expectations (Madon, 2003). The research addressed three issues: it examined whether mother expectations predicted their children’s future alcohol use due to self-fulfilling prophecies, it examined the assessment to the extent to which mother expectations were accurate (note that accuracy pertains to conformity of the fact, providing correct reading or measurement), and lastly, examined whether self-fulfilling prophecies were stronger for some children under specific conditions.   All in all, the mothers truly have a small but significant self-fulfilling effect on their children with regard to alcohol use (Madon, 2003), but research also tells us that these effects were much stronger among the higher self-esteem children.  This study also looked at under which condition that self-fulfilling prophecies might be more powerful.  For example interpersonal effects may have more important effects on social influence (Madon, 2003).  Findings have shown that low self-esteem individuals are more susceptible to social influence than are the higher self-esteem people, and that the children that had lower self-esteem might be less susceptible than the children that had the higher self-esteem to fulfilling the expectations of the parents for example (Madon, 2003).  When children are faced with many conflicting sources of influences in a social setting, then the differences may be the greatest between low and high self-esteem children (Madon, 2003).  It has been noted that children will respond more often when mother influences her expectations (Madon, 2003).  This is a valuable finding because either way we can see that mother has an impact on children’s self-fulfilling prophecy, which can be beneficial with regard to a decrease in children’s desire to drink alcohol.  These findings indicate that mother’s input in low self-esteem children can have great helpful effects with great positive outcomes.  For example, the high drinking and driving statistics that kill many of our children today in automobile accidents could potentially be lowered significantly through mothers’ positive influences, and perhaps her own self-fulfilling prophecy to implement higher safety standards.
 


Social Perception and Social Reality

We have learned that the “susceptibility differences between low and high self-esteem children may be greatest when children are faced with multiple and conflicting sources of social influence” (Madon, 2003, p. 16).  This brings us to a new level of understanding because the “Reflection-Construction Model”, that Jussim, (l99l), presents in her research allows us to review the facts concerning the belief that social perception is a major force in the creation (construction) of social reality (Jussim, l99l).
In this theoretical model it explicitly shows several ways whereby social perception may in fact be related to a social reality (Jussim, l99l).  How could it be that our own social realities are malleable enough that we can transform them into our own erroneous social beliefs (Jussim, l99l)?  In this study, Jussim, (l99l) points out a “strong” version and a “weak” version with respect to the social construction perspective.  “The strong version assumes that social perception creates social reality as much or more than it reflects social reality” (Fiske as cited by Jussim, l99l, p.2). This strong version is called the strong version because it is consistent with the constructivist perspective, which is that many theorists emphasize this phenomenon and promote it, and also that empirical research emphasizes error and bias in social perception. The “weak version of social constructivist perspective acknowledges that people’s errors, prejudices, and misbegotten beliefs sometimes create social reality” (Jussim, l99l, p.2). The weak version is considered weak because it suggests that sometimes people’s perceptions really do reflect their own social reality even when they are erroneous and when these perceptions do not have an influence on social reality (Brophy, l983, as cited by Jussim, l99l).  In her study, Jussim, (l99l) reveals strong conclusions regarding the relationship between social perception and social reality.

 Some of these through the aid of the reflection-construction model are listed from her study; “self-fulfilling, self-sustaining, and self-defeating prophecies, disconfirmation, accuracy of prediction and in judgments of targets’ behavior and biasing effects on judgments of targets’ behavior” (Jussim, l99l, p. 17).  This model gives the reader great insight because it simply shows us that there are possibilities among any of these relations between social perception and social reality that can occur in any social environmental context.  This model also included several types of accuracy; “accuracy in background information for example, or predictive accuracy and accuracy resulting from social constructive processes as well as accuracy resulting from judging targets on the basis of their behavior or attributes” (Jussim, l99l, p. l7). As we have already indicated the importance of teachers’ expectations, Jussim, (l99l) emphasizes in her results that educational psychologists have stressed the importance of accuracy pertaining to teachers’ expectations.  “Whenever social beliefs actually predict targets’ behavior (because of either self-fulfilling prophecy or accuracy), the more those beliefs influence judgments, the greater the correspondence between those judgments and targets’ actual behavior” (Jussim, l99l, p. 17).  Jussim (l99l) found that if we judge targets on the basis of our own beliefs, then we may yield our own judgments that may closely coincide to objective social reality. 

. Ultimately, what revealing information did Jusssim, (l99l) provide us in the results of her study?  Empirical research showed us that the extent is quite limited in naturally occurring teachers’ expectations to create self-fulfilling prophecies, that small effects were found in meta-analyses where self-fulfilling prophecy effects were expected to be more powerful, stereotypes had been found to be both accurate as well as inaccurate, perceivers often judge targets on the basis of the targets’ behavior and attributes, and expectations influence judgments with regard to individuals (Jussim, l99l). Several meta-anlyses assessing the strength of self-fulfilling prophecy effects were conducted.  Investigations in naturally occurring teacher expectations by Rosenthal, l984, as cited by Jussim, l99l) indicated expectancy effects on target behavior of l and 3 among both experimental and naturalistic studies (Raudenbush, l984, Rosenthal & Rubin, l978, Smith, l980, as cited by Jussim, l99l).  It was found that effect sizes may overestimate the power of expectancy effect in daily life, and that grade level of student and timing of the expectancy induction might influence the size of teacher expectation effects. Strongest self-fulfilling prophecy effects occurred with the student in the first second and seventh grades.  Another meta-analyses found how individual differences among perceivers and targets moderated self-fulfilling prophecy effect sizes (Raudenbush, l984, as cited by Jussim, l99l).    Jussim, (l99l), concluded “self-fulfilling and biasing effects of social beliefs were small, especially when compared to accuracy (Jussim, l99l, p. l9), and that the reflection-construction model provides empirical evidence that shows the weak social perspective is more viable than the strong perspective.  Clearly, many factors ride on the variables necessary in defining the true cause of how a self-fulfilling prophecy may precipitate, and by now we can appreciate the complexities involved in trying to decipher the pieces to the puzzle.  However, another area of interest that could reveal the phenomenon of self-fulfilling prophecy is the strategy for self-verification and how one may cope with negative life events.

    Self-Verification and Coping

 In a study conducted by Lillqvist (l998), she investigated how the role of astrology could play as a self-concept verification and the how one may use this as a coping mechanism in dealing with negative life-events.  Forty students in an elementary course of astrology, psychology, and German language were required to rate their certainty about twenty self-describing attributes, and then were required to make three assumptions that were related to themselves (Lillqvist, l998).  They were also asked to make comments on crises or traumatic events that may have occurred in their lives.  The participation in the astrology course verified the participant’s self-concept (one may use astrology as a method to verify self-concept) but not in the psychology or German courses (Lillqvist, l998).  Interest in astrology correlated positively with the personal crises that they had experienced, but not with traumatic events of the past (Lillqvist, l998).   These results tell us that astrology plays a minor role in dealing with traumatic events and may play a more important role when coping with some stressful situations.  In an effort to explain further the role that a self-fulfilling prophecy could take on in these situations can be easily shown here that perhaps the desire to find comfort under stressful situations one could choose astrology to fill in the gaps. If one feels as though they are powerless and resorts to astrology by reading their horoscope in the newspaper for example, if this reading tells a positive story for them in their future, believing the words can fulfill the prophecy for them. It has been noted that especially during turbulent political and economic times, people seem to more readily engage themselves in astrology (Lillqvist, l998).  Astrological information seems to fill the need for self-comprehension, as well as ease the pain of stressful situations (Lillquvist, l998).  Lillquvist, (l998), notes in her study that care should be taken in drawing conclusions from the data in her study due to inadequately filled-out questionnaires, and that the number of participants in her study was small, as well as samples that may have been biased.  Also, her participants were mainly women and that previous studies show that women have a greater belief in paranormal phenomenon than men, along with the fact that women tend to be more superstitious (Lillqvist, l998). We must be cautious when drawing conclusions about data collected in a study with regard to gender, because if only women were used as participants we cannot say that men had a propensity to utilize astrology as a way to fulfill their expectations about their own self-concept as easily as women can.  Although we can speculate that astrology could play a small part in fulfilling prophecies more in women, we cannot conclusively say that this has the same effect on men, yet we can say that astrology is popular during stressful non-normative events whereby individuals can utilize it to calm themselves through this perceived magical thinking. Is it really magical thinking, and are we fooled to believe something that really doesn’t exist in the first place?

   A Philosophical Approach to “Filling In”

 Another perspective that might help us to understand the concept of  “filling in”, as we have recently discussed with respect to stressful situations and astrology and how it obviously contributes to the notion of the existence of a self-fulfilling prophecy, is the philosophical approach that Daniel Dennett unfolds in his book entitled, “Consciousness Explained”.    He explains many theories that lead up to ideas about the conscious mind and elaborates how fields of neuroscience, psychology and artificial intelligence can help us better understand our perceptions of what is real and what is not.  Let us consider the Cartesian Theater, where “it all comes together” (Dennett, l99l, p. l07).  For Descarte, it was the pineal gland, for others it is suggested to be the anterior cingulate, the reticular formation, or various places in the frontal lobes (Dennet, l99l). The Cartesian Theater is a metaphorical place or picture of how the conscious experience sits in the brain.  It is called a theater because one is the actor and the other the audience, or the observer.  If the point of view of the observer is spread out over the entire observer’s brain, the observers’ sense of sequence and simultaneity must be placed upon something other than the “order of arrival” because “order of arrival” is not completely defined until the destination is specified (Dennett, l99l).  Dennett knows that the idea of a special center, where it all happens in the brain cannot be taken too seriously, but it does attempt to reassert itself for some obvious reasons.  For example, there is our personal introspection appreciation of the unity of consciousness, which implies the distinction between “in here” and “out there” (Dennett, l99l). Does this sound familiar? Can this resemble what can happen to us while fulfilling a prophecy?  What we may conclude from our own interpretations mentally may not be what really is happening in the environment.  There really is no Cartesian Theater.  The brain is too complex because there are too many inputs and outputs for it to be just one place for mental concentration, or filtration for that matter. There is no “filling in”, no two people talking to each other in the theater (the theater in our the brains, that is).  Dennett also considers an explanation through the presentation of the “phi” phenomenon, (Wertheimer, l912, as cited by Dennett, l99l), after the motion pictures rapid succession of still pictures, the experiment was duplicated using two illuminated spots of different color, what would happen to the color of the spot as it moved?  Would the illusionary moving spot gradually change from one color to another?  (Kolers & von Grunau, l976, as cited by Dennett, l99l), conducted the experiment in which two different colored spots were lit for l50msec each, with a 50msec interval.  The first spot seemed to be moving and then change abruptly in the middle, and then toward the second location.  How are we able to fill in the spot at the intervening locations from the first to the second flash (Goodman, l978, as cited by Dennett, l99l)?  Suppose the first spot is red and the second displaced spot is green. There has to be some precognition in the brain (the illusionary content), the red turning to green in midcourse, cannot be created until the second one is identified, and the green spot occurs in the brain (Dennett, l99l).  But here Dennett, (l99l), explains that if the second spot is already “in conscious experience” isn’t it already too late to interpose the illusionary content between conscious experience of the red spot and the similar conscious experience of the green spot?  “The principle that causes must precede effects applies to the multiple distributed processes that accomplish the editorial work of the brain” (Dennett, l99l, p.ll5). What you consciously experience is first red turning to green and then finally green, it would then logically follow that your consciousness of the event would be delayed until after the green spot was “unconsciously” perceived (Dennett, l99l).  Isn’t this similar to what happens when a teacher fails to perceive a Mexican students’ achievement in a classroom, for example when after moments have past she has already decided to place judgments on the abilities or for that matter, lack of abilities onto the child?   Doesn’t it become more convenient for her to categorize neatly away the problems she faces with regard to the student by distinguishing the good from the bad?  We cannot draw quick conclusions by a sample experiment within the “phi” phenomenon, but we can derive from logic how easily our minds can misinterpret what we think we see or what we may not have seen in the first place.  Self-fulfilling prophecies can operate in the same way, leaving us uncomfortable in knowing that we can’t be certain, that we must never assume anything until we have researched it further.  Empirical evidence provides us some ease in determining what is real and what is not, yet those facts must be evenly weighed when considering all the variables in an experiment, but also in terms of real life situations.
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  Conclusions

Much to our surprise, the subject of self-fulfilling prophecy has had a long history.  Although numerous studies have currently been conducted to date on the subject, social scientist had very early on taken an interest in the subject due to the apparent implications it had in the workings of social processes. We take it for granted, but the horrors that people of color (the enslaved Negro) had to endure in society in earlier centuries made a huge impact in the study of self-fulfilling prophecy, because social scientist recognized the apparent need to address the issue.  When people respond in a certain way to a particular situation, that response implies a particular meaning to that person, thus this consequence becomes the new ascribed meaning, and later infects the new engrained meaning onto others within a society.   We can begin this introspection interpersonally throughout our daily lives, for example if we convince ourselves that we will do poorly on an exam, and that we are destined to fail, we can become so devoted to worry that we can become our own victims of circumstance.  The failure thus becomes failure, not only because we had envisioned it, but also because all other factors associated with it reaffirms our core belief system.  This core belief system is evident as we apply it to the injustices that occur to people of race or color, as well as prejudices against disorders, such as ADD/ADHD, that have long aversive effects on children still today.  Stigmatization and prejudice can become so overwhelmingly problematic that it interferes with the learning process in schools and affects society as a whole. If certain individuals believe that the less fortunate are a hindrance to our society this can perpetuate into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and there is some evidence to substantiate this.
    The most popular and compelling evidence regarding the subject of self-fulfilling prophecies came from studies that were conducted in the classroom.  Many prominent psychologists were able to calibrate their studies together, while most have built up new theories based upon evidence of prior assessments as so often happens in research, and have redefined self-fulfilling prophecy to make it more intelligible to the layperson.  Various key concepts were investigated in the development of a clearer definition of self-fulfilling prophecy.  What are some of these key concepts that ultimately lay the foundation that can act as a facilitating precursor in the evolution of self-fulfilling prophecy?  Efforts were made to look closely to the effects of teachers’ expectations with regard to student motivation, as well as their achievements, and it was found that the only evidence of self-fulfilling effects of teacher expectations on student motivation was the effect of teacher perceptions of student performance on students’ self-concept of ability.  Results showed if students perceived themselves as performing highly early in the year, then they increased their self-concepts of math ability by the end of the year.  Results also provided support for the self-fulfilling effects of teacher expectations on student motivation, but they provided very little evidence that student motivation mediated self-fulfilling prophecies.  There were no significant effects found on the performance regarding the student’s motivational variables, except for the effects of student self-concept of ability on grades. It was hypothesized that teachers’ expectations would influence their judgments of the students’ performance.  These biases could affect the grades that the teachers may assign without influencing the scores on objective standardized tests.  The results that were presented were consistent with the occurrence of biased grading when the teachers’ perceptions regarded effort, which prejudiced final marks, but not with regard to (MEAP) scores.  The difference was significant, for example when the teachers believed the students were lazy, compared to those they believed to try hard. The students that tried harder received higher grades, but not higher with regard to standardized test scores.  These results did not provide evidence that the teachers’ perceptions of the students’ performance biased students’ grades. One of the most popular and most powerful teacher-classroom experiments that were discussed for relevance for self-fulfilling prophecy, was whether teachers’ favorable or unfavorable expectations could possibly result in an increase or a decrease in pupils’ intellectual competence. Inquiries were made with regard to ability to “bloom”, and found an expectancy advantage.  No differences were found between boys and girls with regard to favorable expectancy. Boys that were expected to bloom intellectually, gained on the verbal IQ, and girls that were expected to bloom intellectually, gained more in the reasoning IQ.  In general, the children who had been expected by their teachers to behave in a certain way ended up doing so for the most part.  The younger children showed greater expectancy advantage, but surprisingly the Mexican students did not share in the advantage of being expected to bloom. After the first and second year had passed, results indicated that the Mexican children showed greater expectancy advantages than did the non-Mexican children.  Consistent with self-fulfilling prophecy is that teachers in this study treated their children in a more receptive pleasant manner when they expected greater intellectual gains, in other words an improved intellectual performance.
Studies were reviewed with regard to stigma and how this may have disruptive effects on children, and also how that the children’s expectations about a stigmatized classmate may affect their interactions with them, specifically how an ADHD label could in fact, operate as a powerful expectancy.  This study showed significant perception differences when stigmatized children were involved.  A particular expectancy takes place that correlates with the stigmatization, and this study indicated that a self-fulfilling prophecy is possible when a normal child’s expectations about stigmatized peers can cause negative interactions that so often parallels a stigma.
Self-concept influences were reviewed and studies showed that a low self-concept has important implications that will indicate that a person may behave and interact with people in ways that are nonassertive and deferential.  Poor concepts may lie in the statuses that we were given by are parents or caregivers, which also may have a spiral affect later on in life. Another study that was reviewed examined mothers and their expectations regarding their children’s drinking habits, and her influence over the children’s future alcohol use.  The reflection construction model defines mothers’ expectations as being inaccurate and that they are not based on valid variables regarding the children’s future alcohol use. It was found that mothers truly have a small, but significant self-fulfilling effect on their children with regard to alcohol use.  When children were faced with many conflicting sources of influences in a social setting, the differences may be greatest between low and high self-esteem children.  It was noted that children would respond more often when mother influences her expectations.  This was a valuable finding because we may see that mother could have had an impact on children’s self-fulfilling prophecy.
   In a review of social perception and social reality through the reflection construction model, this study revealed the facts concerning the belief that social perception is a major force in the creation of social reality.  An emphasis was placed upon several types of accuracy; accuracy in background information, predictive accuracy and accuracy resulting from social constructive process, and accuracy from judging targets on the basis of their behavior or attributes.  Whenever social beliefs actually predict targets’ behavior, because of either self-fulfilling prophecy or due to accuracy, the more those beliefs influenced judgments, the greater the correspondence between those judgments and targets’ actual behavior.  This study concluded that self-fulfilling and biasing effects of social beliefs were small, especially when compared to accuracy, and that the reflection construction model provides empirical evidence that shows the weak social perspective is more viable than the strong perspective.
 Another interesting study reviewed how the role of astrology could play as self-concept verification and how one may use this as a coping mechanism in dealing with negative life-events.  The results of this study indicated that astrology plays a minor role in dealing with traumatic events and may play a more important role when coping with some stressful situations.  Astrological information seems to fill the need for self-comprehension, as well as ease the pain of stressful situations. A confounding variable in this study was the fact that participants in the study consisted only of women.
  An approach to philosophy was utilized in an attempt to verify the concept of “filling in”.  The Cartesian Theater is a unique idea seen through the eyes of the observer, with an audience inside our brain, or is it?  The combination of neuroscience, psychology and artificial intelligence could help us to better understand that there really isn’t just one place where everything comes together, that our minds are much too complex to visualize just one center.  The “phi” phenomenon was introduced as a way to visualize precognition in the brain, the illusionary content in midcourse. This analogy was constructed as a way to exemplify what might happen “consciously” or “unconsciously” with regard to perception and how our perceptions become distorted and as a result may ultimately lead to our own self-fulfilling prophecies.
     Although in most of the studies that were indicated, evidence for self-fulfilling prophecy showed only a slight significance, with teacher-classroom studies providing the best and clearest understanding in the subject.  A better significance was found in studies where stigmatized children were involved where a self-fulfilling prophecy is possible when a normal child’s expectations about stigmatized peers could cause negative interactions.  Having touched just the tip of the iceberg on this subject, areas such as religion, ethnic background, hypnosis, and war could have provided a more in depth look into the cause and effects concerning self-fulfilling prophecies.  Continued research in this area will benefit many, especially our children, for they may become the new hope in a population of investigative scientists.
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