Employee Motivation, the Organizational Environment and Productivity

Self-fulfilling prophecy or pygmalion effect at work

Better Management by Perception

Corollary 1

  • Rosenthal concluded that some students unknowingly communicated high expectations to the supposedly bright rats.
  • The other students communicated low expectations to the supposedly dull ones. But this study went a step further.

According to Rosenthal, "Those who believed they were working with intelligent animals liked them better and found them more pleasant.

Such students said they felt more relaxed with the animals, they treated them more gently and were more enthusiastic about the experiment than the students who thought they had dull rats to work with."

Corollary 2

  • Better performance resulting from high expectations leads us to like someone more
  • Lower performance resulting from low expectations leads us to like someone less

Rats not good enough for you?

In another classic experiment, Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson worked with elementary school children from 18 classrooms. They randomly chose 20% of the children from each room and told the teachers they were "intellectual bloomers."

They explained that these children could be expected to show remarkable gains during the year. The experimental children showed average IQ gains of two points in verbal ability, seven points in reasoning and four points in over all IQ. The "intellectual bloomers" really did bloom!

How can this possibly work?

In 'Pygmalion in the Classroom' (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968), Rosenthal replies: "To summarize our speculations, we may say that by what she said, by how and when she said it, by her actual facial expressions, postures and perhaps by her touch, the teacher may have communicated to the children of the experimental group that she expected improved intellectual performance.

Such communication together with possible changes in teaching techniques may have helped the child learn by changing his self concept, his expectations of his own behavior, and his motivation, as well as his cognitive style and skills."

There was no difference in the amount of time the teachers spent with the students. Evidently there was a difference in the quality of the interactions. The teachers also found the "bloomers" to be more appealing, more affectionate and better adjusted. Some students gained in IQ even though they had not been designated as "bloomers," but they were not regarded to be as appealing, affectionate or well-adjusted.

Apparently, the bloomers had done what was expected of them and the teachers were comfortable with them. The other students who did well surprised the teachers; they did the unexpected and the teachers were not as comfortable with them. It may be that they were thought of as overstepping their bounds or labeled as troublemakers.

Next | Corollaries 3 & 4