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Pygmalion (Greek myth)

What is Pygmalion theory?


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October 06, 2010 2:06PM

Pygmalion effect motivational theory is so named after an ancient Greek legend. A story of Ovid about a sculptor named Pygmalion who was also a prince of Cyprus. Pygmalion created an ivory statue of his ideal woman which he named Galatea. The sculpture was transfixed him with its beauty and he fell in love with it. Pygmalion, beside himself, begged the goddess Aphrodite to bring Galatea to life. Aphrodite granted Pygmalion his wish bringing the statue to life. Pygmalion and Galatea married and they went onto live happily ever after.

In modern times the story was recast in George Bernard Shaw's play "Pygmalion", which became the musical "My Fair Lady". In Shaw's play there are two central characters Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. Professor Higgins claims he can take the Cockney flower girl Eliza and transform her into a duchess. In the play, and the crux of Pygmalion effect motivational theory, Eliza herself points out to Professor Higgins' friend Pickering what determines whether she becomes a Duchess is how she's treated. Important is the realization that it isn't what she learns or does that is determinant of her climb to be a duchess.

Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's play "Pygmalion",

"You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will, but I know I can be a lady to you because you always treat me as a lady, and always will."

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

A self-fulfilling prophecy or the Pygmalion effect is when current behavior is taken on because expectations of a future expectation. The future expectation becomes reality because of the current behavior. Thus the current behavior changes actions to obtain results that confirm existing attitudes. Thus you have fulfilled a prophecy out of self fulfillment, by making it happen.

It is important to be well are of any tendencies you may have to harbor a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is important to avoid self defeatism and other negative attitudes. Recognizing them first is half the battle. You must maintain self responsibility and the herd mentality to avoid falling into the pitfalls of self fulfilling philosophies. You will also find once you get into those patterns you can become self destructive, subconsciously trying to enact the negative self fulfilling prophecy.

First thing to break the cycle of self fulfilling prophecy is to recognize any times in your life a negative prediction have come true. Here are some examples.

  1. I believe my marriage is going to fail. I react by pulling away and act differently towards my spouse. This feeds on itself and my marriage ends up failing,
  2. I believe my boss doesn't like me. I react by working poorly, spreading gossip and turning up late. The inevitable happens, I am fired.
  3. I believe I am going to fail my exams. I react by being late for class, handing in poor assignments and quit studying. Guess what just as I thought I do poorly and fail.
  4. I believe I can't get fit and as a result aren't going to bother. I react by quitting the gym, eating poorly and overindulging. My body reacts with extra weight, bad blood pressure and blotchy skin. I told you so!
  5. I believe my investments will fail and I will lose money. I react by staying in bad investments, avoid safer alternatives and guess what I lose money just like I thought!

These are some clear examples of self fulfilling prophecies. Each one of them can be averted by recognizing them. The first step is to maintain a journal with goals and use positive affirmations and problem solving skills to divert the self fulfilling prophecy per Pygmalion effect motivational theory.

Psychics are said to be excellent proponents of Pygmalion effect motivational theory by implanting an idea in your mind, leading you to alter your life plan and you eventually make the prediction happen because you think it will happen.

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Economic Recession and Stock Market Crashes.

Perhaps the best example of self fulfilling prophecy and the flow on affects in Pygmalion effect motivational theory is an economic recession. Look at the last few years in the global financial crisis. Times are tough but are you surprised it hasn't reached the depths the experts predicted, who just before it happened said it never would? Simply when you have already decided it is bad, and the community in mass has than the recession becomes real. Consumer confidence drops off, employers start laying people off. Politicians spout everything negative to push agendas. Think of what has happened in the U.S over the past year to excuse massive government spending and bailouts

The way economists classify an economic recessions makes it the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy. A recession is not classified until two quarters of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline. Because of lag times you aren't aware you are in a recession until you are at least six months into one. However we don't have that luxury because after one poor quarter all the financial pundits and media outlets declare a recession is coming, why because fear sells. The result is people stop spending, lose confidence and then we have a flow on affect that actually causes a recession. Sound familiar?

The same logic applies to stock market crashes, they begin to become self fulfilling and pick up momentum as the doom and gloom spreads. Given they economies and stock markets go up on a bland opposite of self - fulfilling prophesy, wishful thinking it has no structural base that feeds into the self fulfilled prophecy. The end of the world, everyone knew it would happen etc

Pygmalion effect motivational theory applies to expectations whether you are an individual or a leader . Be alert and aware and you will see and share what is really going on before the herd does.

In the words of Goethe,

"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."

Answered by Ulan Dakeev