Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Pygmalion effect

In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a Cypriot sculptor who carved a statue of a beautiful woman out of ivory and named her Galatea.  He fell in love with his statue Galatea and secretly wished for a bride as beautiful and as perfect as her.

Aphrodite, the goddess of love, granted Pygmalion's wish and the ivory statue Galatea turned into a beautiful real woman after Pygmalion kissed her.  Pygmalion and Galatea were married and had a handsome son who they named Paphos from whom that city in Cyprus is named. 

The "Pygmalion effect" is the psychological phenomenon whereby the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform. The opposite of this is the "Golem effect".  It's the psychological phenomenon in which lower expectations placed upon individuals leads to poorer performance.  Both of these phenomena are forms of a self-fulfilling prophecy

Good managers will use the Pygmalion effect to get the best out of their employees.  Teachers will use it to get the best out of their students.  And parents will use it to get the best out of their children.  Ironically, economist tend to use the Golem effect when trying to predict the economic behavior of people.  (Go figure?)

When my son was born, a Catholic nun gave me a copy of a beautiful poem that really sums up the Pygmalion effect.  The poem is called Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. (1924 - 2005).  The poem really helped me to be a good parent to my children.  And eventually I realized how the same concept could be used for other vital relationships.  So when you read the poem, substitute employees or students or managers or spouses or parents or siblings or friends or colleagues for children and you'll see how the Pygmalion effect can help you change your world for the better.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

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