The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is The 'Pygmalion Effect'?

The Pygmalion Effect explains that people tend to perform up to the level that others expect of them.

This effect explains why our relationships are usually self-fulfilling prophecies. Once you set expectations for somebody, that person will tend to live up to that expectation, whether it's good or bad.

The Pygmalion Effect doesn't justify having unrealistic expectations of other people. Expecting miracles is a recipe for frustration on both ends.

The paradox of the Pygmalion Effect is that having high expectations of people will produce better results, but it's also more likely you'll be disappointed. If you're assessing someone, remember to judge as objectively as possible.

Josh Kaufman Explains The 'Pygmalion Effect'

Individuals tend to rise to the level of other people's expectations of them.

In general, people tend to perform up to the level that others expect them to perform. If you don't expect much from the people you work with, it's likely you won't inspire them to perform to the limits of their capabilities. Let them know you expect great things from them, and more often than not, you'll find that they perform well.

The Pygmalion Effect is a tendency named after Pygmalion, the protagonist of a Greek myth.

Pygmalion was a gifted sculptor who created a statue of a woman so perfect that he fell in love with his creation. After Pygmalion desperately prayed to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, she took pity on him by bringing the statue to life.

The Pygmalion Effect explains why all of our relationships are, in a very real sense, self- fulfilling prophecies.

The effect was first verified in studies that examined the relationship between teachers and students. If a teacher believed a student was "gifted" or "smart," the teacher would act in ways that encouraged the student to live up to that assessment. If the teacher believed a student was "difficult" or "challenged," they wouldn't receive as much support and wouldn't perform as well-a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie recommends, "Giving others a great reputation to live up to." He was a wise man-raise your expectations of others, and they'll naturally do their best to satisfy those expectations.

The Pygmalion Effect isn't an excuse to have unrealistic expectations of other people. Even the best builder on Earth couldn't replicate the pyramids of Egypt in an afternoon, so expecting that level of performance from anyone is a recipe for disappointment and frustration. Expecting quality and performance is one thing-expecting miracles is unrealistic.

The Pygmalion Effect also features a paradox: having high expectations of people will produce better results, but it also increases the probability that you'll be disappointed.

The Expectation Effect means that our perception of the quality of someone's work is a function of our original expectations. The higher our expectations are to begin with, the higher the performance will generally be, but the risk our expectations will be violated is also much higher.

If you're doing a formal assessment of someone's performance, remember to judge performance objectively and quantitatively as much as possible.

Let others know you expect great work from them, and they'll do their best to live up to your expectations.

Questions About The 'Pygmalion Effect'


"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation."

Charles Kettering, prolific inventor and former head of research for General Motors


From Chapter 8:

Working With Others


https://personalmba.com/pygmalion-effect/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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