A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.
A prophecy is declared as truth, when it is false, to cause its supposed fulfillment; a false declaration which is nonetheless accepted as truth, especially by the person who has made the false claim.
The expression “self-fulfilling prophecy” originated in the 1930s, referring to a false definition of the situation, evoking a new behavior that makes the originally false conception come true.
Here are 100 of the best self-fulfilling prophecy examples. Keep an eye out for how the initial false expectations lead to unrealistic positive or negative behaviors that ultimately cause the desired result.
1. The Pygmalion Effect-This effect was first discovered by the psychologist Robert Rosenthal in the 1960s.
In a story to illustrate the Pygmalion effect, a flower girl is given false expectations of becoming more sophisticated and adapts her behavior accordingly. This change in her behavior then makes the new personality trait a reality.
2. The Stereotype Threat– It is a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. In this phenomenon, individuals are exposed to negative stereotypes about their social group or identity. These stereotypes cause anxiety to the affected.
3. The placebo effect is based on the belief that a positive-minded patient is likely to benefit from treatment more than a negative patient. Positivity attracts better interactions between the body and the treatment.
4. Suggestibility Effect-This self-fulfilling prophecy was observed by psychologist Nicholas Spanos and his colleagues. They found that a person’s suggestibility to hypnosis can be falsified if they are led to believe they are unable to be hypnotized.
5. False Consensus Effect self-fulfilling prophecy-The false consensus effect is a phenomenon in which people overestimate the degree to which others agree with them. Some people rely on the agreeable talk of others and ignore the reality of life.
6. False Memory Effect-We tend to remember things that conform with our expectations and forget the times when they didn’t.
7. Self-Serving Bias-We attribute our successes to internal causes and blame others or outside factors for failures. For example, an elementary school teacher takes credit when students perform well on a subject. However, the same teacher will blame parents when students misbehave.
8. Optimism Bias self-fulfilling prophecy- Optimism bias is a positive self-fulfilling prophesy example. It’s the tendency to predict positive outcomes even when there is little evidence that these predictions are likely to come true.
9. Pessimism Bias-It is the tendency to expect that a bad thing will happen. People who exhibit this negative self-fulfilling prophecy anticipate and attract negative outcomes.
10. Endowment Effect– This effect causes people to place a high value on things simply because they own them. If someone else owned the same thing, the case would be different. An item’s value matches the owner’s positivity and not necessarily its real value.
As a result of this effect, people tend to demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it.
11. The illusion of control self-fulfilling prophecy– It tends to overestimate how much control we have over a situation and, therefore, take more risks.
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12. Forer Effect-The Forer effect causes us to believe descriptions of personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for us. This happens even when the descriptions are obviously vague and general enough to apply to anyone.
Also, it may happen when we mistakenly believe that someone is familiar because of a vague, non-descriptive statement about the person.
13. The illusion of Superiority self-fulfilling prophecy– It can be a negative or a positive self-fulfilling prophecy where individuals overestimate their abilities. This kind of self-believe is sometimes risky but bears good fruits eventually.
14. Dunning-Kruger Effect- It refers to the tendency to be more confident than we should be. We overestimate ourselves and fail at tasks that we are otherwise capable of completing.
Also, due to the Dunning-Kruger effect, people with little or no knowledge of a certain topic tend to overestimate their ability, and people with vast knowledge of that topic underestimate their ability.
16. Charm Effect self-fulfilling prophecy– This is the phenomenon in which a person’s attractiveness or charm affects the way others react to them. The person’s looks attract good energy even though they may not be pleasant people.
17. The likability Effect refers to people’s tendency to view someone more positively when told that other people like them.
18. Lake Wobegon Effect-This shows our tendency to overestimate our accomplishments and abilities compared to others.
19. Herd Behavior- The natural human tendency to do what everyone else is doing, even if they are wrong.
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20. Sunk Cost Fallacy-Our tendency to let the amount of time and money that has already been spent on a project negatively affect our decision to stop or continue with it.
21. Feedback Loop- A phenomenon that occurs when two or more events happen in sequence, where the result of one event is used as the input (causal factor) for the next event. A positive feedback loop results in exponential growth. A small change at the beginning of the cycle can result in extremely large differences at the end of the cycle (the longer the cycle, the more extreme this effect can become). A negative feedback loop results in an exponential decay and can be used to stabilize a system.
22. Criminal Law Effect- Because we tend to assume that all people are rational beings, we often blame the victims of crime for their misfortunes.
23. Halo Effect-We tend to assume that someone who has one good characteristic will have similar positive characteristics.
24.Primacy Effect-We tend to emphasize what comes first or what we have seen most recently.
25. The Recency Effect- People often emphasize what comes last or what we have seen most recently.
25. Normalcy Bias-Preference for things to remain the same even if they are clearly dysfunctional.
26. The Tragedy of the Commons- A situation where a shared resource is detrimental to all system users.
27. Information Cloud– A collection of related ideas, concepts, and opinions from which people can draw conclusions. Information Clouds are very useful when trying to understand a topic that you’re not familiar with; the links between each piece of information should give you a better understanding of the whole.
28. Wisdom of Crowds-This theory states that a large group’s collective intelligence or judgment is greater than any single member of that group.
29. Bandwagon Effect- It explains that people will do (or believe in) things because other people do (or believe in) them.
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30. Choice-supportive Bias- This is the tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were.
31. Choice-justification Bias– We tend to defend our decisions by exaggerating their positive qualities and minimizing their negative aspects.
32. Ostrich Effect- The inclination for people to not learn from their mistakes and ignore information that may make them look bad.
33. Pluralistic Ignorance Effect-It is the tendency for people not to know the opinions of others in a group. This happens because they are afraid that those who hold opposing views will dislike them for having differing opinions.
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34. Post-Purchase Rationalization- The tendency for people to change their attitudes or beliefs to align with what they have purchased.
35. Reactance- It’s the tendency to do the opposite of what’s required of us. Most people do this to resist the control another person is trying to have over us.
36. Reinforcement Theory- The theory that rewarded behavior will continue, and behavior that is punished will decrease.
37. Scarcity Effect- We tend to value things more if we know that they are scarce or few of them available.
38. Status Quo Bias– It explains how people like things to stay the same even if they are clearly dysfunctional or irrational. It’s a false belief that things should be the way they are.
39. Sunk Cost Fallacy-This is the tendency to stick with a decision or course of action because we have invested time, money, or effort into it.
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40. Learned Helplessness- The theory that learned behavior can cause a person to feel helpless because they expect the situation in which they are placed will turn out badly
41. Backfire Effect- When a person’s efforts to convince someone else of the correctness of their position actually cause that person to believe the opposite.
42. Futuristic Bias- People tend to overestimate how the future will be similar to the present.
43. Groupthink- A phenomenon in which cohesion within a group causes the group members to ignore any alternatives and reach a poor decision.
44. The paradox of Choice-The theory that the more options there are, the harder it is for us to make decisions.
45. Herbert Simon Effect- People tend to have over-confidence in their predictions of the future.
46. Social Comparison Theory- This is the perception that our attitudes, abilities, or achievements are superior to others.
47. Superiority Bias- It shows our tendency to overestimate the extent of our positive qualities and underestimate our negative qualities.
48. Star Syndrome- The theory that celebrities, sports stars, and politicians are over-estimated compared to their true ability.
49. Valence Effect– This is the tendency for people to value potential rewards more than potential punishments.
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50. Self-serving Bias- It happens when you either favor oneself or disfavor others in attributions of causality. It’s also the tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than failures.
51. General Attribution Error– People tend to overestimate the extent to which internal, dispositional factors are responsible for successes. They also underestimate the role of outside, situational factors in causing those successes.
52. Gambler’s fallacy– This is the tendency for people to think that patterns of wins and losses are less random than they actually are.
53. Over justification Effect– When a person changes their attitudes or behaviors, not because they say they do but because of their rewards.
54. Wishful Thinking– When people incorrectly believe that their desires have caused a positive outcome, such as predicting an investment will perform well because they hope it will.
55. Artificial Ignorance- People tend to be biased about the information they have not learned, experienced, or sounds unfamiliar.
Inattentional Blindness: This happens when people fail to notice important things in their environment because they are focused on something else.
56. Knowledge Illusion- Our tendency to overestimate what we know relative to other people
57. Planning Fallacy- People underestimate how much time, money, and other resources it will take to complete a task.
58. Disposition Effect– The tendency to sell an asset that has appreciated for a quick profit rather than hold the investment. It’s when we sell something for a higher price than we paid.
59. Market Illusion- The tendency to perceive the stock market as more predictable than it really is and to be overconfident in one’s ability to pick stocks.
60. Loss Aversion-The tendency for people to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains.
61. Loss Framing- This is the tendency to judge a potential gain or loss relative to a reference point rather than on its own merits.
62. Ludic Fallacy– The tendency to assume that a hypothetical situation is analogous to reality will result in the same outcome.
63. Product placement illusion- This happens when people overestimate the amount of product placement they perceive in popular culture.
64. Pollyanna Principle- It’s the tendency to attribute others’ behaviors and dispositions positively while attributing our negative behaviors and dispositions to outside factors.
65. Mere-exposure effect- People tend to develop a preference for things merely because they have become familiar with them.
66. Overconfidence effect– This happens when people overestimate their abilities in areas where they have no objective measure of their performance.
67. Overjustification Effect- It’s the tendency to devalue an incentive offered for engaging in a behavior that was already planned.
68. Belief-value Asymmetry- We tend to ascribe a higher value to obtaining information than avoiding misinformation.
69. Confirmation bias- The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs. People seek information and accept arguments supporting their preexisting beliefs and ignore or reject information that opposes them.
70. Conjunction fallacy- This is the tendency to assume that specific conditions are more probable than general ones.
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71. Curse of knowledge- When better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.
72. Distinction bias- People tend to view two options as more dissimilar when evaluating them simultaneously than separately.
73. Discounting effect-It happens when we value a future event less as it becomes more distant in time.
74. Emphasis effect – It means placing too much importance on one aspect of an event.
75. Extinction (behavior) – When a response that has been reinforced is no longer reinforced when it is repeated, the response will eventually extinguish.
76. Extrinsic incentive- It’s an external reward, such as money or a prize, for engaging in a behavior.
78. Familiarity bias- This is the tendency to prefer familiar things, even if they are objectively worse than alternatives.
79. Framing effect- It’s a phenomenon that occurs when people are presented with the same choice in different ways.
80. Free-rider problem– People tend to benefit from group efforts without contributing to the effort. They believe in their worthiness to reap where they haven’t sown.
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81. Fundamental Attribution Error-The tendency for observers to over-attribute another person’s behavior to disposition and underestimate the role of situational factors in that person’s behavior.
82. Hypothesis-confirmation paradigm- A form of confirmation bias involving a preference for testing hypotheses consistent with current beliefs or theories and a tendency to test alternative hypotheses less often.
83. King’s College panel studies-This study occurred during the Iraq war. It showed that CBS and NBC viewers were more opposed to the war than PBS viewers.
84. Lightness illusion- This tendency toward a perceptual bias allows us to believe that an object of relatively small mass is much lighter than it actually is.
85. Losada & Heaphy’s (2004) studies: People tend to rate low-performing groups as highly capable when evaluated simultaneously but not separately.
86. Matte Blanco’s (1974) studies – This is a study where drugs were administered to illiterate male patients with paranoid schizophrenia. These patients had previously received identical (and ineffective) drug treatments. After treatment, some patients were told that the new drug had been effective, and others were not. The patients who received no feedback at all showed more improvement than those in control.
87. Misinformation effect- This happens when exposure to false information alters the memory of an event. A person’s memory conforms to the false information rather than to what actually happened.
88. Mood-congruent recall – People tend to recall positive or negative information in a way consistent with their current mood.
89. Mood-maintenance hypothesis – This is the idea that people who are depressed recall negative information more than positive information because they focus on the former and forget the latter.
90. Nisbett & Wilson (1977a) studies – A study in which a person was asked to imagine having just met a new person. The stranger either shook hands with the person or didn’t. The person then rated the stranger on several attributes. The researchers found that participants who imagined they had shaken hands rated the strangers as warmer, more intelligent, and more trustworthy than participants who imagined the stranger had not shaken hands.
This cycle effectively describes the process of how self-fulfilling prophecies form, persist, and ultimately lead to their eventual disconfirmation. It is a cycle of observation, belief, and behavior that maintains self-fulfilling prophecies regardless of their accuracy. Beliefs can affect behavior and outcomes because of their impact on the individual’s motivation. The pattern is as follows:
- The original behavior occurs.
- A behavior occurs that is consistent with the belief but not necessarily caused by it.
- The person perceives the behavior and identifies a correlation between behavior and outcome. They develop an expectation about the relationship between their original belief or other cognitions and the outcome.
- The expectation influences a new behavior that is consistent with the belief and not necessarily caused by it.
- The person perceives the new behavior and identifies a correlation between behavior and outcome. They develop an expectation about the relationship between their original belief or other cognitions and the outcome.
- The cycle repeats itself in a self-perpetuating fashion until it is interrupted by outside intervention.
The impact of self-fulfilling prophecies of relationships is one of the most important reasons for investigating them. Understanding the relationship between self-fulfilling prophecies and relationships is best accomplished by examining their impact on the basic relationship process.
According to both social exchange and interdependence theories, romantic relationships minimize the discrepancies between outcomes. They control their expectations and the actual results.
Self-fulfilling prophecies form when there is a discrepancy between two people’s views of the relationship. This results from an initial self-fulfilling prophecy (or other sources of expectation) that impacts each partner’s behavior in the relationship.
For example, imagining that a relationship is adversarial may result in each partner acting toward the other with less warmth than they would if they had a more positive self-fulfilling prophecy about the relationship. As a result, each partner will perceive the other person’s behavior as less warm than it actually is. This way, one partner feels less close to the other
The impact of self-fulfilling prophecies on the conflict in a romantic relationship may be two-fold. First, a positive self-fulfilling prophecy may lead to a greater degree of conflict because it leads each partner in the relationship to perceive that they have more issues than are actually the case. In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy may increase the number of discrepancies within the relationship that are perceived as a conflict.
Second, negative self-fulfilling prophecies may be more likely to result in a partner acting aggressively toward their partner due to their perception of being treated unfairly. In this case, self-fulfilling prophecies are likely to result in larger discrepancies between partners and thus to increase conflict.
Self-fulfilling prophecies may impact the relationship as a whole and all behavior within it, or they may focus on more specific elements of the relationship. For example, a person may have a self-fulfilling prophecy that their in-laws will not accept them.
This prophecy may lead the person to act in ways that cause them to be rejected by their in-laws, increasing the probability that they will feel lonely and rejected. In this example, self-fulfilling prophecy focuses on the core relationship process of acceptance.
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Self-fulfilling prophecies are a bit of a mixed bag in terms of their potential outcomes. On the one hand, they can promote good mental health and wellbeing, among other positive pursuits like weight loss or quitting smoking. But on the other side, self-fulfilling prophecies have been known to lead people into depression when expectations aren’t met and general complacency with what life has dealt them.
Whether you’re using it for something that will help your customers or not, understanding how this phenomenon works is essential if you want to avoid any negative consequences from your marketing efforts.
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