Your expectations sculpts you: Pygmalion effect

Merve Yılmaz
4 min readAug 19, 2022
Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Before we start let’s look who is Pygmalion who gives his name in a psychological effect:

Pygmalion is a Greek sculptor who thinks there is no girl such beautiful to love in his town. With the thought there is no girl to love, he starts sculpting. When his sculpting finishes he amazes by the girl he creates. Finally, he finds a beautiful girl worth loving.

Pygmalion who falls in love with his statue, goes Aphrodite who is a love goddess and prays all night and makes vows. One day, after he came back from praying he gives a kiss on his statue’s lips. Moreover, he starts feeling warm from the statue, and it turns into a human. Then they got married but the point of this story turns that our expectation of people sculpts people.

Pygmalion effects rely on two German psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson study which were conducted in 1963. It is a very easy understanding study. They did IQ tests on students. They took students who have intermediate IQ levels and separated them into two classes. They told one of the class’s teachers that the teacher’s students are normal children who have medium IQ scores. On the contrary, they told another teacher that the teacher’s students have higher IQ levels and students are intelligent.

You can find the study here

At the end of the term, they gave the kids an IQ test again, and here’s the result. There was no change in the class of the teacher whose students were said to have average intelligence. On the other hand, the IQ values of the children in the teacher’s class, who was said to be intelligent students, were increasing.

What’s the point?

The point is, that one of the teachers thinks her student intelligent and made them intelligent. Others think her students are average and keeps them there. The teacher is more interested in the children because he thinks they are smart.

I want to give an example from myself. I lived in a ghetto and went to primary school there. We were all workers’ children. The teachers believed that nothing would happen to us. Scholarship exams were not announced even to children like us who needed scholarships the most. I found out by chance and entered. I won, but in my senior year. I had the opportunity to get this scholarship before, but I didn’t even know the exam. I asked one of my teachers why they didn’t announce this exam. Did he say you were going to go? Most likely the point was if he didn’t believe I could pass the exam.

How the people around us treat us, and their expectations of us shape us.

At another point, how we treat ourselves shapes us. For example, you compare someone at your workplace to an old friend who treated you badly before. Inside, you expect him to do you harm and stay away. Then you say that when that colleague gave you mania, you told me so. No, it’s not like that at all! You distanced yourself from your colleague by staying away from him/her, and this is the result.

How do you treat the people around you? Sometimes they can be really annoying, but you need to evaluate yourself, maybe you are prejudiced.

If you constantly complain about the people around you, you create people around you to complain about, just like the Pygmalion effect.

How is your relationship with yourself? Sometimes important events happen to all of us; exams, interviews, presentations, dates… If our minds do not support us, we constantly think of negative things. Thoughts like I’m going to fail, I’m going to embarrass myself for sure. If you think about them all the time, after a while you will find yourself living them. There is a saying in Turkey. We say; something will happen if you say it forty times, and that’s what science backs up.

What is an alternative? Treat yourself well! Close your eyes and imagine you succeeded. When starting a new duty start with the idea that I will do very well.

Remember, you either think it’s good and create facts that support it, or you expect it to be bad and you won’t be surprised.

We are all very talented sculptors, and I hope we can shape both ourselves and our environment in the most beautiful way. I wish you all the best.

26 days ago, I started a 50-day challenge. One of my goals is in this process to share a post on Medium every day. I am very happy to see my followers increase on this journey. I would appreciate it if you would support me and accompany me on my journey. I hope to see you around.

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Merve Yılmaz

• UX Designer •Istanbul Technical University •Top writer in Self Improvement, Health, Life Lessons & Life.