The Pygmalion effect
In 1968, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson reported the Pygmalion effect, and named it after Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw. Students at a single California elementary school were given a disguised IQ test. Teachers were then told the names of some of the students, 20% chosen at random, could be ''spurters'' that year and outperformed their classmates. The actual scores of the students were not disclosed to the teachers.
The supposed spurters' names were notified to the teacher. Rosenthal predicted that teachers subconsciously facilitate or encourage their students' success. Finally, students' were tested with the same IQ test used at the beginning of the study. The First and Second Graders group favored the spurters and showed statistically significant gains in their group. This means that teacher expectations can influence student achievement, stemming from young childhood.
High expectations lead teachers to subconsciously behave in different ways, such as:
1. They create a warmer “socio-emotional climate” for the learners they regard as high-potential, often conveying this warmth through non-verbal signals: a nod, an encouraging smile, a touch on the shoulder.
2. They teach more material, and more difficult material, to learners they see as especially promising.
3. They give up-and-coming learners more opportunities to contribute, including additional time to respond to questions.
4. They offer their “special” learners feedback on performance that is more detailed and more personalized — not just a generic “Good job.”
How is this relevant to consulting? It shows you the power of expectations and of your reputation. This is why it's so important to build a positive reputation at the very beginning of your career. I've been on both sides of the coin - when I started out, I was a terrible consultant, and it took me months to dig myself out of the self-perpetuating cycle of bad reputation. When I was a high-performer, I could suddenly do no wrong.
Remember the Pygmalion effect in your first few months when you're asking yourself - should I go the extra mile on this? The answer is yes. You should!