- Quality of Life & Wellness
What are your expectations?
In the mid 1960s, Dr. Robert Rosenthal, a Harvard psychologist, conducted a series of experiments involving children in grade school. At the beginning of the school year, all the students in a certain grade level were given a test called the "Harvard test of inflected acquisition". They then selected certain students for a particular class and the teacher was told that these students scored higher than average on the test and that was an indication that they were more likely to bloom during the school year.
At the end of the school year, all the students were again tested. The results were very interesting. The students in the special class, the ones that had been labeled academic bloomers, scored on average 12% higher than the students at the same grade level in the other classes. The students were also rated higher on behavioral attributes. They were rated as more willing to learn, easier to get along with and in general better students.
Surprising fact about the study
The most interesting thing to come from the study was the fact that the students in the special class were not selected on the basis of the test scores. They were selected at random. The only real difference was the teachers' expectations for those students. This experiment was repeated over three hundred times and the results were all the same. The only difference between the special students and the other classes was the teacher believed that the students were capable of doing better and therefore they did.
Now of course this is very interesting, but what does it have to do with you and everyday life? A lot more than what you may think. How you expect people to perform has a real influence on how they actually perform. In the experiments the teachers communicated their expectations in non-verbal ways. But the students were able to understand and perform in accordance with the expectations.
Children are exceptionally good at picking up non-verbal signals. Have you ever been having a disagreement with another adult and a young child walked in the room? You both may have stopped the argument but the child still "knew" something was wrong. Children are really good at picking up on non-verbal signals.
We have to be very careful about what signals we send them. We need to understand that our expectations have a significant impact on a person's behavior. This is particularly true for children. They can pick up the message. And if our message is you are a failure ... then we are turning them into a failure. On the other hand, if we set high expectations for those children under our circle of influence, they have a much better chance of achieving what is expected of them.
It is not only children that are influenced by our expectations. Think about your relationships with your family, your friends and the people you work with. What are your expectations? Do you project negative or low expectations? Or do you expect them to excel? This is just one example of self-fulfilling prophecy.
We need to set high standards for ourselves. We need to expect that we will be successful, that we will do the right thing.
How often have you heard people say, "Oh, I can never do anything right?" Or "I am nothing but a klutz." When we talk to ourselves this way, we are giving ourselves permission to be a low achiever. We are giving ourselves permission to fail. If we expect failure, that is what we are going to get more times than not.
You tend to get from people what you expect of them. If you want people to perform better, to achieve more, then expect them to do so. Your expectations have a real bearing on the way people perform.
Often we are not aware of the subtle signals we send to others. But you should be aware that others pick up these signals. They may not be consciously aware of the signals or the fact they have picked up on them. But the influence is still there. And it has a real influence on how they perform.