What is the purpose of the Pygmalion Effect

The Pygmalion Effect: Good expectations lead to good performance

Pygmalion in class - the sensational experiment of the late sixties

The Pygmalion effect is also called the Rosenthal effect or experimenter expectation effect. This goes back to the classical investigations by Rosenthal and Jacobson (1966). The results were the sensation of the late 1960s and sparked heated controversy.

The Social psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Leonore Jacobson had chosen a number of elementary school children at random as part of an experiment. They had told the teachers that these children would do very well intellectually over the next year. A year later, the randomly named children actually did better on an intelligence test than at the beginning of the experiment.

The results were confirmed several times in later studies. The Pygmalion effect is particularly strong in the lower school classes. Video analysis by Chaiken et al (1974) showed that teachers are the "intelligent" students smile more, have more eye contact, and praise their comments more. This mostly unconscious behavior influences the actual achievements of those affected. This applies even if the pupils * do not know anything about the expectations and the teachers * believe that they are behaving neutrally (cf. Freimuth and Haritz, 2009).

In addition, the uplifting or demoralizing effects can be significantly greater if those affected come from disadvantaged or stigmatized groups, such as migrants, ethnic minorities, socially disadvantaged groups, etc. The Pygmalion effect with negative effects is sometimes also called the Golem effect.