Why Students Can't Do What They Can't Do: The Pygmalion Effect

"What You Think Can Become True"

Pygmalion is a name of a sculptor in an ancient Greek myth. He was a very excellent sculptor who succeeded in creating a beautiful woman statue, and every day he wished and thought that the statue would one day become his wife. Because of his tenacity in waiting for his dream to become true, the goddess Venus granted his wish and changed the statue to a beautiful woman.

Based on this myth, psychologists came up with a theory on the habit of thinking. It's called "Pygmalion Effect".

Pygmalion effect is a way of thinking in which a person thinks, or makes an assumption, and relies heavily on that very assumption in doing whatever he or she's doing (I'm trying to explain and make it sound as simple as possible). In short, how you're thinking is how you're doing.

This phenomenon happens in all types of human, but I'd like to scale down the scope into a student's context. It's easier this way.

Let say that you're extremely retarded when it comes to Mathematics. Whenever you see numbers, your mind turns into a monkey's brain. Then you're sitting for your final exam. You see the first page of the exam paper, and you say, "Gosh, this's gonna be difficult!". You think that way all the time.

Then the exam starts and you turn to the next page, and start answering the questions. While doing it, your mind keeps on saying, "This is tough!", "I can't do it", "I don't know the answer!". You keep thinking that way until the end of the exam. The next day, your teacher says that you failed. You couldn't even answer the simplest questions!

Why is that so? Here's the explanation. Before the exam, your mind said that the questions were tough, even though you hadn't even read the questions yet. So when you were doing them, without realizing it, you were actually acting like the questions WERE tough, but in reality, they weren't at all.

What I'm trying to say here is; your thinking, even if it is based on nothing, affects your attitudes. This is where the Pygmalion effect takes place.

There's a hypothesis in Pygmalion effect saying that reality can be influenced by the expectations of others. In fact there was a study done to support the hypothesis.

A number of teachers were asked to teach a group of students. The teachers were told that those students were actually brilliant but 'late-bloomers'..(but the truth was they were picked up randomly, which means some of them could be brilliant, some could be weak). So the teachers taught them, gave extra attention and trained them unfailingly for a period of time. The result? Their performance and I.Q developed tremendously, even better than other students!

And the reason for the success was that those 'brilliant' students were motivated by the efforts that the teachers had put on them (because they thought the students were brilliant but 'late bloomers'). This proved that the assumptions put on the students influenced them to improve and meet the expectation. Assumption becomes reality.

So teachers, make an assumption and influence your students!


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