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The Pygmalion Effect

Pygmalion was a king who sculpted a woman so perfect he fell in love with it. Pygmalion got very fonded of his sculpture and eventually made offerings at the altar of Aphrodite, wishing for a bride who would be the living likeness of his ivory girl. When he returned home and kissed the statue, he was surprised to find its lips warm. He kissed it again and realized that the ivory had lost its hardness, and the sculpture turned into a real woman named Galatea.

This story gave rise to the concept of the "Pygmalion Effect". Psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson conducted an experiment that demonstrated that if teachers were led to expect better performance from their students, the students actually performed better. Similarly, if teachers expected lower performance, the students' performance declined.

According to the Pygmalion effect, when individuals are labelled positively, they internalize those labels and tend to succeed. On the other hand, individuals with negative labels tend to perform poorly; both effects leading to self-fulfilling prophecies.

Rosenthal predicted that elementary school teachers may unknowingly have behaved in ways that supported and encouraged their students' success. So, as managers, parents, and teachers, how can we help facilitate their success? How can we help emerge the potential of the people around us?

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