The Pygmalion effect

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them to become what they are capable of becoming.

When I read this quote, I had to think of the Rosenthal-Jacobson study. You have probably heard of this study. In the late 1960’s there was an experiment at an elementary school. The teachers were told that some of their students (their names were revealed to the teachers) were to be expected to excel. In reality these students were randomly chosen. However, at the end of the experiment it turned out that the students that were supposedly better in fact did have better results than their peers. This is what became the Pygmalion effect. It was named after the mythological Cypriote king Pygmalion who sculpted a statue of a woman that was brought to life by Aphrodite.

And this study reminded me of a book I recently read. Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell. In this book Gladwell describes how a little advantage at the start may end up a very big difference at the end. The little advantage, for example being a few months older and therefore a little stronger and faster, may lead to an other small advantage, getting a little more training, what may lead to a little bigger advantage, getting on a better team, which means more training, getting better and may eventually lead to becoming a professional player instead of being just one of the millions of average sports players.

So little things can make big differences. And I wonder, what would the world be like if we all treated ourselves and others with high expectations and love? What if we would treat ourselves and the people we meet,  especially children, as the people we ought to be instead of who we are? Being aware of and stimulating our abilities instead of our disabilities and the things we’re good at instead of focusing on our flaws.
I realize that it may not always be easy, but the first step is awareness (it took me only 40 years to get there 🙂 ). When I catch myself saying something that I would prefer to say differently, I start over and say it again the way I want to.
What ever you choose to say or do, just be aware of the impact it may have, it might just be bigger than you’ll ever know.