Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

In an experiment by Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. in 1966 it was found that expectations of teachers influenced gains by students. Specifically several students were identified as bright students to their teachers when in actuality they were randomly assigned. By the end of the year on a test score the students in younger grades (1st-4th) gained as much as 30 points on the test while the control group gained around 12 points. The experimenters found that when a teacher expects a student to do well then they will do much better than if the teacher expects them to do poorly. This has been studies and evaluated many times and still holds true.

Another interesting story is about a horse called, "Clever Hans." This horse was able to do simple math, read and write. After studying further it was found that the experimenters conducting the tests to see if it was true were giving subtle hints to the horse. One was after they asked the question they would look at the horses hoof for an answer queuing the horse to start stomping his hoof. Second when the horse was approaching the correct response they would look up slightly, once again queuing the horse. The horse was able to read the subtle movements and "expectations" of the experimenters thus getting the answers right.

Think about the stories and movies that we read and watch. The MC almost always has someone who believes in her or him. That person expects the MC to succeed. In my book the MC's parents expected him to be good and do great things and more importantly he knew these expectations. Near the end of the book my MC has another experience in which he is given a choice and the person giving the choice expects great things of him and so he chooses in the way that is expected of him. Of course there is something with in the MCs that makes them strong and choose correctly, an inner strength but, think about where those inner strengths come from.

Who expects your MC to succeed? How does your MC react to those expectations? What are the subtle hints that readers can catch onto that will make them expect certain outcomes? By answering these questions the readers are also trained to think a certain way which will draw them deeper into the story especially if you follow those expectations. A thought, what would happen if we are putting out subtle hints and then go against those expectations? My thoughts are that this could be really cool if done correctly but it could also very easily backfire on you so be careful when dropping hints :)

BTW: I made it through the blog hop it was so wonderful seeing all of the new blogs out there and I look forward to visiting them all again. Welcome again to all of my new followers and thanks for the support from those who have stuck with me!


  1. now what is really cool is using those subtle hints to lead them one way while going another and still maintaining the integrity so they cann look back and how did that happen and see how it can...

  2. As a mother, this scares me! What 'subtle' (or not so subtle sometimes) hints am I giving my children?
    Good thoughts!

  3. I think the older we get, the more some of the characters try to rebel. This could be a great tool to use when writing teenagers or adults. How many times do we not want to be forced into a corner so even when we know one way is "right" we take the other way. (My husband still does this when it comes to his dad on occasion.) This has some great potential.

  4. True, it would be difficult to have the character go against expectations and come across as realistic . . . but it might be fun to try. :)

  5. Hey there,
    I loved my psych class when I was in school, so your blog looks like a good one :) Self-fulfilling prophecy was actually one of my favorite concepts. It's especially interesting I think to see an MC who doesn't expect much of themselves push beyond those expectations and go against the theory. Oh, and it's kinda funny, but you happened to be my 222 follower and I'm your 222 lol. Hope you have a great one,
    Ninja Girl


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