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      We need, when we are in a relationship, to understand the other because the functioning of our brain encourages us to predict and above all explain their behavior: “These impressions, beliefs, perceptions or other expectations (expectations) that we have at the moment "Regarding a person can direct our thoughts and behaviors towards them, and in turn influence their thoughts and behaviors."

      “As soon as the teachers started treating him like a good student, he really became one: for people to deserve our trust, you have to start by giving it to them.
      » Marcel Pagnol, The Time of Love, 1988, p. 76.

      What are self-fulfilling prophecies?

      Systemic approach to educationAs early as 1948, Robert Merton called this erroneous belief leading to its realization “self-fulfilling prophecy”. According to him, “a self-fulfilling prophecy is an initially erroneous definition of a situation which gives rise to a new behavior which makes this initially false conception exact” (Merton quoted by Trouilloud and Sarrazin, 2003, p. 90).

      In 1968, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson published Pygmalion at school, in which they described the role played by teachers' expectations on the academic success or failure of students and demonstrated that teachers' positive prejudices about their students have a major influence on the potential of these. During an experiment, Rosenthal and Jacobson made teachers believe that certain pupils in their class had a high probability of making progress during the school year, hiding from them the fact that these pupils, selected at random, did not no particular differences with the other students in the class. And yet, these so-called “promising” students have progressed in terms of IQ, confirming the hopes placed in them. This fulfilled prophecy was called the " Pygmalion effect " or the "Rosenthal and Jacobson effect".

      In 1970, Ray Rist provided an example of how the dynamics of self-fulfilling prophecies can shape the lives of students, after observing for three years the behavior of teachers and the educational trajectory of five-year-old children from American ghettos. From the first week of class, the teacher, having identified the fastest students from the slowest, assigned them to different work tables. Gradually, it turned out that the so-called slow students internalized this image sent back by their teacher and began to lose interest in school work. In the following years, none of these students managed to be assigned to the so-called "good readers" group...

      We notice that Rist is content to observe the naturally established expectations while Rosenthal and Jacobson have induced these expectations by providing erroneous information.

      Read also:

      The Golem effect and the Galatea effect, what is it?

      It was in 1982 that Robert Rosenthal, Elisha Babad and Jacinto Inbar deepened the Pygmalion effect by discriminating positive results, in an effect called Galatea, from negative results, representing an effect called Golem. This Golem effect, a self-fulfilling prophecy highlighting teachers' negative beliefs about students' academic progress, shows that a potential judged to be limited by a person in authority can lead to poorer performance.

      Many works have appeared in the wake of this research, and in particular a series of criticisms - one of the most important relating to the fact that, in reality, teachers have reliable information on pupils and that in natural situations , their judgments are not as biased as those of the teachers in the Rosenthal and Jacobson study. The work of Lee Jussim falls within this perspective (Bressoux, 2003). Jussim hypothesized that the teacher's expectations, instead of modifying their behavior, might just be an “accurate reflection” of the student's abilities and predict their academic success – without influencing them. It is thus based on the skills that allow education professionals to assess with great precision the academic potential of their students. The conclusion of these studies confirms the Pygmalion effect but also shows that it remains weak. This is why “it is preferable, according to Jussim, to apprehend the phenomenon of the confirmation of expectations from a quantitative rather than a qualitative point of view: even very precise expectations are partially imprecise” (Trouilloud and Sarrazin, 2003, p. 104 ).

      The Pygmalion Effect

      Even though this study has regularly been the subject of controversy, the Pygmalion effect remains an essential study of self-fulfilling prophecies. The researchers mainly criticize the link put forward between professorial expectations and an increase in IQ. On the other hand, the rest of the study is a consensus.

      The Pygmalion Effect

      Rosenthal's four factors

      Rosenthal offers his “four-factor theory,” a model identifying four broad categories of behavior through which teachers treat students for whom they express high expectations differently; this differentiated treatment being of course more favorable to them:

      • The pedagogical content and the mode of presentation of the learning tasks (input)
      • Requests and opportunities for expression granted to students (output)
      • The socio-emotional climate of verbal and non-verbal interactions with students (climate)
      • Teacher reactions to student performance (feedback)

      Rosenthal's four factors

      Figure 1: Focus on inclusive schools in Europe – Erasmus+, Resource Sheet Empathy and the “Pygmalion” effect: the positive influence of a positive regard for the Other, Core of the module: D.

      Conceptual model of the Pygmalion effect

      Conceptual model of the Pygmalion effect

      Figure 2: Trouilloud and Sarrazin, p. 94, Revue Française de Pédagogie, n° 145, October-November-December 2003.

      The role of cognitive biases in self-fulfilling prophecies

      The role of cognitive biases in self-fulfilling prophecies“Teachers are responsible for intellectually and emotionally stimulating their students. While positive expectations (perceptions) stimulate students, negative expectations may inhibit them. (Papantuono et al., 2019, p. 86).

      According to Jussim, even precise expectations can create self-fulfilling prophecies and perceptual biases, because these expectations are always partially imprecise. By cognitive bias, we mean a thought mechanism that causes an impairment of judgement; it is a deceptive and deceptively logical thought pattern. This form of thinking allows the individual to pass judgment or make a decision quickly. Cognitive biases influence our choices. We can identify three biases that influence the judgment of teachers:

      • Perceptual bias

      The teacher can use his expectations as interpretative filters, likely to lead to distortions of reality “when he perceives, interprets and evaluates the actions of a student” (Trouilloud and Sarrazin, 2003, p. 101).

      • Confirmation bias

      Teachers may interpret the academic results of students with high expectations as being more positive than similar results of students with low expectations. “Accordingly, teachers might more often praise students for whom they have higher expectations, whereas negative performance feedback might be more frequent for lower-expectancy students, independent of the students actual achievements. (Gentrup et al., 2020, p. 3).

      • Group specific bias

      Studies have shown that inaccuracy in teacher expectations does not occur randomly but occurs systematically for different groups of students – “for example, negative bias in teacher expectations has been found for students from socially disadvantaged families, for ethnic minority students, for boys and girls in gender-untypical domains, as well as for students with special educational needs or learning disability statuses” (p. 2).

      As Trouilloud and Sarrazin (2003) observe, teachers base their expectations mainly on relevant cues:

      • Student's past performance,
      • Scores obtained on standardized tests,
      • Motivation, effort
      • attitude in class...
      • and, to a lesser extent, on much less reliable indicators:
      • Student's Gender,
      • Physical more or less attractive,
      • Ethnic or social origin...

      Teacher expectations

      Teacher expectationsTeachers' expectations influence the academic success of students, whether it is:

      • Objectively, when these expectations change the actual behavior of students
      • Subjectively when teachers' perceptual biases influence their assessments of students.

      These self-fulfilling prophecies can have an impact on the student's way of perceiving himself, his academic performance, his motivation (including intrinsic motivation), his confidence and his self-esteem.

      In the end, it is not always the expectations in themselves that influence student performance but rather the specific behaviors of teachers engendered by these expectations.

      Be that as it may, Trouilloud and Sarrazin (2003) show that additional research on the relationships between positive and negative expectations on the one hand, and subsequent student performance on the other hand would be greatly needed to complete this panorama further. very incomplete.

      Resisting self-fulfilling prophecies

      Madon, Jussim and others have shown that even when teachers behave differently towards their students on the basis of their expectations, these expectations are not necessarily realized: "students can prevent expectations from becoming self-fulfilling in their resisting or acting against them, so as to encourage the teacher to modify his original expectations” (quoted by Trouilloud and Sarrazin, 2003, p. 113).

      Previously, even before any action of resistance, it seems important that the student notices and becomes aware of the presence of a particular treatment inflicted on the students by the teacher. Otherwise, it will not confirm the teacher's expectations. “Thus, the motivational chain linking judgment to performance could depend on the pupils' perception of the differential treatment to which they are subject in class. (Bressoux, 2003, p. 12).

      Parents and self-fulfilling prophecies

      The Pygmalion effect denounced by Rosenthal and Jacobson is not limited to the classroom. “It is not a question here of considering that the behavior of the parents is beyond reproach, but that they do what they think is best for their child according to the information at their disposal, the conceptions of the world and the situation. education they have forged during their lives. (Berlioz-Ruffiot, 2007, p. 160).

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      A team of more than
      50 trainers in France
      and abroad

      of our students satisfied with
      their training year at LACT *

      International partnerships

      The quality certification was issued under
      the following category of actions: Training action


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