My fellow students pay close attention and try to learn something in this week’s psychology column. I say this in the most sincere and honest way possible! I’m currently in Social Psychology with Dr. Kelso (which is awesome btw), and we were assigned a reading that most people could benefit from.
Have you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Sure it’s intuitive enough to draw out the definition with the infallible critical thinking method. Essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy is when an individuals’ expectations of another lead themselves to behave in a manner that draws out the behavior that was originally expected of the individual. In other words, you think someone is an ass, then you behave in a manner that produces that attitude of them. Thus your expectations have been confirmed, and you’re a genius.
Mark Snyder, Elizabeth Decker Tanke, and Ellen Berscheid designed an experimental research study back in 1977 (kind of old isn’t it). This trio wanted to test stereotypes based on beauty and the traits that accompany them. Stereotypes people implicitly or explicitly have of other groups, lead them to behave in ways that draws out expected behaviors, or so they wanted to test.
The experimenters paired men and women together, who had never met, to have a telephone conversation to get to know one another. The men and women filled out a questionnaire about their academic level and high school they graduated from. The information was exchanged between the pairs that would get to know one another. The devious experimenters had a sly trick up there sleeve. The experimenters showed men a picture before the conversation to prime them. Men were shown a picture of an attractive women or a picture of an unattractive woman. The pictures were of women who were not participating in the experiment. The women had no idea that the men were shown a picture prior to their conversation. Men filled out an Impression Formation Questionnaire about their initial reactions to the picture. Traits on the questionnaire included: enthusiasm, intelligence, successfulness, physical attractiveness, etc. Men and women filled out the same questionnaire after their conversation, and women also filled out a 10-point scale including: enjoyment, comfort level, how well she projected herself, men’s behavior, etc.
Now that I have provided a minor breakdown of the study, let’s get into it. In fact, men’s stereotypes of unattractive and attractive women showed through the conversations. Men provided with an unattractive photo prior to the conversation were primed to elicit behavioral expectations. Men recorded the women in the unattractive condition to be serious, awkward, socially inept, and rather unsociable. Whereas the men in the attractive picture condition perceived women as humorous, sociable, poised, and socially adept. Men’s expectations of women, stereotypes of attractive or unattractive, led them to act in a way that put off or intrigued women.
What have we learned today? Perhaps our expectations or stereotypes have a stronger hold on our behaviors than we acknowledge. Maybe we’re not able to hide our real emotions and implicit associations of gender, ethnicity, or any group. We act in a manner that produces the expected behavior of another. If you have expectations of a blue eyed or brown eyed person, maybe those expectations are flawed and are unfair to project on others, because your behavior may just produce the behavior you expect.