Monday, September 16, 2013

Pygmalion Effect

You may have never heard of the Pygmalion effect but there certainly has been a lot of talk recently about the Law of Attraction.  Since the book and movie “The Secret” has been published that age-old spiritual law has received a new lime-light.  In the business world they are calling it “The Law of Positive Expectation.”

So, what’s the buzz?
Thoughts create images in your head.  Those pictures produce feelings or emotions.  The vibration of these emotions will attract similar experiences.  Here it goes: positive emotions will generate positive experiences, while negative feelings will generate negative experiences.  What does that mean? You create your own life by what you imagine in your mind.  Eventually, you build your own future.

Contrary to the popular thinking that we live in a mechanical universe, the universe exists in different forms of energy, starting with the atom.  Our thoughts are a form of energy.

Where did the Pygmalion effect come from?
In Greek mythology, there was a talented sculptor named Pygmalion.  He wasn’t very successful in his love life, but he had a great imagination.  When he found a beautiful piece of ivory, he saw the form of an attractive young woman before his eyes.  He started carving and chiseling and in a short time he had created the statue of lovely young lady.  At once, Pygmalion was taken by her beauty, to the point that he put clothes on her and jewelry.  He even gave her a name: Galatea which means sleeping love.

As it is was tradition in Greece, Pygmalion went to the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, and prayed for a wife just like the statue he had carved out of the piece of ivory.  When Aphrodite heard his plea, she went to see the statue of Galatea.  She was very pleased with her since she resembled the goddess. 

When Pygmalion came home from his worship, he found Galatea alive.  He fell in love with her, and they got married.  From then on, the couple went to the temple together and brought gifts of thanks to the altar of Aphrodite.  She in return blessed them with happiness and love.

And we remember the story for the lesson: whatever we expect with deep passion and imagination, it will come to pass.

The Pygmalion effect was made popular by George Bernard Shaw who wrote a play called “Pygmalion.”  It became also the known as “My Fair Lady,” a musical, where Professor Higgins takes a common flower girl from the streets of London and trains her to “become a lady,” speaking, dancing and behaving like a woman of high status.

The Power of Positive Expectations
In the 1960’s Robert Rosenthal has done experiments where he told one teacher that he had great expectation from a group of school children because of some data.  Throughout the school year, these children had great performance in all areas of study, because of the support and encouragement of the teacher.  At the end of the school year the teacher learned that the children had been randomly selected, and was surprised how well they performed.  In another experiment, high grade students were treated with no special attention and expectation.  At the end of the school year their grades showed only average results.

This seems to prove that the teachers' expectations about a student's achievement can be affected by factors having little or nothing to do with his or her ability, and yet these expectations can determine the level of achievement by confining learning opportunities to those available in one's track.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Robert Merton, a 20th century sociologist, actually coined the term of self-fulfilling prophecy. In his definition, in the book Social Theory and Social Structure published in 1949, the prophecy or prediction is false but is made true by a person’s actions. In the modern sense the prophecy has neither false nor true value, but is merely a possibility that is made into probability by a person’s unconscious or conscious actions.

The self-fulfilling prophecy has also deep implications in regards to our health.  The well-known placebo effect can fit into this area which shows the power of our mind and how attitude and suggestion can influence us for better or worse.

The best steps to take advantage of the 'law of expectation' is to keep a positive attitude and stay focused on facts, and most of all trust our gut feelings in case somebody wants take advantage of our ‘innocence.’

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