[Paleopsych] pygmalion effect

Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Sat Jul 31 02:44:37 UTC 2004

Good question. The original Pygmalion Effect was the subject of a 1968 
book (Pygmalion in the Classroom), by Rosenthal & Jacobson. As I recall, 
Rosenthal was allowed by Jacobson to manipulate the expectations of 
teachers in Jacobson's school (she was Principal). Teachers were led, at 
the beginning of the year, to believe that certain students were 
unusually gifted and should 'bloom' during that year. By the end of the 
year they showed - if I recall correctly - a 4 or 5 point increase in IQ 
(on the WISC, I believe, which is a gold standard of IQ tests). 
Replications showed consistent IQ gains, but Marcel suggests very small 
- no practical effect in a .5 group gain. I can't find that number in my 
quick APA literature search. (Marcel, citation???)

Here is a  synopsis:
There are quite a few pages about the effect on the web.

Subsequent research showed a consistent improvement when expectation is 
manipulated, including apparently genuine differences between rats, 7th 
graders, college students, and military recruits. Marcel seems to have 
more of an expertise in this area, I am just going from my memory. The 
effect has been pretty much taken over by business consultants who have 
written a good deal on it. I don't hear of it in education any more. 
(comments, Frank???  Karen???)

Appreciative Inquiry has made a pretty big deal of the Pygmalion effect, 
and as I review the literature they probably make more of it than they 
should - typical for constructivists (grin, wink) since they don't 
believe in Truth anyway.

Some children, by the way, apparently are much more vulnerable to the 
Pyg effect, being more field dependent (depending on social cues), 
whereas the children more field independent were pretty much immune to 
social expectations. The apparent active ingredients seem to have been 
non-verbal expectancy, like the way the teacher would look towards the 
supposedly gifted (randomly chosen) students when discussing difficult 
material, asking questions, and so on. This apparently inspired the 
students to try harder and master more material.

Finally, the effect probably gets ignored because Rosenthal's results, 
with kids, mice, college students, and so on, also shows that 
Experimenter Bias is a huge effect. Related:   Studies of 
antidepressants funded by drug houses regularly show large effect sizes; 
studies done independently show small to insignificant effect size. MDs 
doing ratings regularly rate the drug patients as much more improved 
than therapy patients; when patients rate themselves (using a Beck, for 
example), the effect is reversed, therapy>drugs. So this gets ignored 
because we don't like to think of ourselves as the source of such high 
levels of Noise vs. Signal.
Lynn Johnson
Salt Lake City

"We're all doctors here."
    -- Woody Allen

Michael Christopher wrote:

>>>However, Pygmalion effect (effect of expectations)
>is just 0.5 IQ points (based on serious studies, not 
>--How were the studies done, exactly?
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