Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Pygmalion Effect

Studying a course in management has its own share of “fun” subjects. We had a couple last term, and thankfully, we have some true “beauties” this term. One of them goes by the name MPPO – Managing People and Performance in Organizations. So much for the regal sounding name. Its basically Organizational Behavior repackaged, and the students can’t care less. Most of us, me definitely included, use the 1.5 hrs twice a week to catch up on lost orkutting and surfing, while the professor rambles on in his dream world.

I wouldn’t have bothered to mention the subject though, had it not provided me with the topic for my current blog. Buried in the professors words, was a gem called the “Pygmalion Effect”, and I was impelled to ponder over it a bit further.

Also known as the “teacher-expectancy effect”, it says that students perform better when teachers expect stellar performances from them. This effect is all around us – sportspersons perform better when the crowd cheers them, workers perform better when they have the support of their boss, and we all feel strengthened when we have the well-wishes of our near and dear ones with us. I distinctly remember an incident in 7th grade. My 'Hindi' teacher admonished me for poor performance in a class test, and informed me that she expected much better from me. As if on cue, and like a self-fulfilling prophecy, my performance and interest in the subject improved dramatically.

But alas! Over the years, I believe that an “inverse” Pygmalion effect is taking hold of me. Living up to expectations is not easy, believe me, and sometimes I have been forced to rue thus – "The weight of expectations is hardest to bear". As time goes on, and the mind gets muddled with all sorts of doubts and insecurities, even the most hardened pros can wilt under pressure. And these are the occasions that this 'weight' of expectations pulls one down. Strange! The same thing can work for you and against you, and the people who care for you can actually do some unintentional harm.


yash said...

Full support to "inverse Pygmalion effect". Iam one its sufferer :D
good show! ( typical IIMA lingo!!!)

Varun Prakash said...

Dude..I have reasons to believe that the reverse Pygmalion effect is indeed true.. Though I don't intend to give excuse for my chagrin performance in CAT , its actually a fact that all these expectations contributed in making me more vulnerable on the exam day.
I still ask God why wasn't I born in America , where people don't care this much!

Gurveen said...

Gud one! i like it for its honesty! Though it wud have been better if u cud have covered the other side of the coin as well!

kanchan said...

Does expectation always enhanced performance? No , Sometimes expectation spoil the result.

Its been just 6 months ,you have joined IIM. But IIM-effect is visible in blogs.....
Good blog, but too short ...

keep writing ..:)

nidhesh said...

yeah, i agree on lot of the points that you have made in the blog but the point that Pygmalion effect can also be reverse make is quite dicey or unpredictable. And hence, according to me, there is no such effect. These are just the reasons humans have developed to answer the unanswered question.
keep writing

jasdeep mandia said...

good observation.
u know there few things about which everybody knows and everybody agrees but no one knows it shape or size.
you have given "inverse pygmalion effect" not only a name but also a definition.
gr8 job.