George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion


Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be. – Goethe

The Pygmalion Effect or The Expectancy Theory is a phenomenon whereby others’ expectations of a target person affect the target person’s performance.

The effect is named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with a statue of a woman he had carved & fell in love with it. Unable to love a human, Pygmalion appealed to Aphrodite (the goddess of love), to bring it to life. Aphrodite granted his prayers.

Alternatively called the Rosenthal effect, named after psychologist Robert Rosenthal. And Lenore Jacobson, their research concluded that high expectations lead to better performance and low expectations lead to worse, both effects resulting to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Pygmalion Effect is a phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to higher performance. For example, a manager’s higher expectation on work performance affects the employee’s input, which in turn leads to better job satisfaction and fulfillment while a manager’s low expectations on work performance jeopardize the employee’s output, which in turn leads to low morale & dissatisfaction.

When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur. (Rosenthal and Babad, 1985)