Thursday, March 10, 2011

A self-fulfilling prophecy

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior. Although examples of such prophecies can be found in literature as far back as ancient Greece and ancient India, it is 20th-century sociologist Robert K. Merton who is credited with coining the expression "self-fulfilling prophecy" and formalizing its structure and consequences. In his book Social Theory and Social Structure, Merton gives as a feature of the self-fulfilling prophecy: e.g. when Roxanna falsely believes her marriage will fail, her fears of such failure actually cause the marriage to fail.(Now, isn't that exactly what Quimby had demonstrated in the 1860's as he healed people?)

A positive or negative prophecy, strongly held belief, or delusion - declared as truth when it is actually false - may sufficiently influence people so that their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false prophecy. (And of course Morty Lefkoe is helping people to eliminate false beliefs)

  The self-fulfilling prophecy is
, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behaviour which makes the original false conception come 'true'. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning. 

 Robert King Merton (1910 – 2003) was a distinguished American sociologist. He spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University, where he attained the rank of University Professor. In 1994, Merton won the National Medal of Science for his contributions to the field and for having founded the sociology of science [].
Merton developed notable concepts such as "unintended consequences(outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action [1])", the "reference group", and "role strain" but is perhaps best known for having created the terms "role model" and "self-fulfilling prophecy". A central element of modern sociological, political and economic theory, the "self-fulfilling prophecy" is a process whereby a belief or an expectation, correct or incorrect, affects the outcome of a situation or the way a person or a group will behave. Merton's work on the "role model" first appeared in a study on the socialization of medical students at Columbia. The term grew from his theory of a reference group, or the group to which individuals compare themselves, but to which they do not necessarily belong. Social roles were a central piece of Merton's theory of social groups. Merton emphasized that, rather than a person assuming one role and one status, they have a status set in the social structure that has attached to it a whole set of expected behaviors.

[1] Unintended consequences can be roughly grouped into three types:
1. A positive, unexpected benefit (usually referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall).
2. A negative, unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy (e.g., while irrigation schemes provide people with water for agriculture, they can increase waterborne diseases that have devastating health effects, such as schistosomiasis).
3. A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse), such as when a policy has a perverse incentive that causes actions opposite to what was intended.
Sociologists call any group that individuals use as a standard for evaluating themselves and their own behavior a reference group. Reference groups act as a frame of reference to which people always refer to evaluate their achievements, their role performance, aspirations and ambitions. A reference group can be either from a membership group or non-membership group. An example of a reference group being used would be the determination of affluence
An early precursor of the concept appears in Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: "During many ages, the prediction, as it is usual, contributed to its own accomplishment" (chapter I, part II).
Examples abound in studies of cognitive dissonance theory and the related self-perception theory; people will often change their attitudes to come into line with what they profess publicly.
The phenomenon of the "inevitability of war" is a self-fulfilling prophecy that has received considerable study. 
In Canadian hockey, junior league players are selected based on skill, motor coordination, physical maturity, and other individual merit criteria.  

Stereotype Self-Fulfilling Prophecy is very common as it can take on many forms. This type would imply that the expectancy for a party to act a certain way based on race, religion, gender and much more, would eventually lead to said party imitating the stereotype.


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