The other day I listened to a piece on National Public Radio that talked about some research that “discovered” the power of expectations on people’s behavior. Essentially, if a parent or teacher believed that a child could be successful at a task, that child tended to be successful at that task compared to a child whose parent or teacher didn’t believe the child could be successful.
This struck a chord with me because many years ago I did a Master’s degree thesis on “Expectancy Theory” or what commonly is called “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.” Basically this concept implies that if you believe you can accomplish something, you will and if you don’t believe you can accomplish something, you won’t.
For my thesis, I gave 3 sixth grade classrooms an IQ test. They all got the same test with the same instructions. I waited a few weeks then went back to each classroom to tell them that the company doing the scoring of the tests had a problem half way through scoring the tests and the tests were destroyed and had to be taken over.
I told the first classroom that the scorers said the tests they had scored showed higher IQs than normal and good luck on the retest.
In the second classroom, I told them that the testing company was seeing lower IQ scores than normal before the malfunction and hoped the students would do better on the retest.
For the third classroom, I told them the test had been destroyed and they had to take the test over.
When I analyzed the results, the students who just retook the test achieved the same scores on the first test and second tests. For those I told they had gotten higher scores on the first test actually achieved higher scores than expected on the second test. For the classroom I told had lower scores on the first test, the GIRLS achieved normal scores but the BOYS did worse than expected.
Overall, the results showed a strong effect when an expectancy to perform is created. Positive expectancies worked very well for boys and girls. Girls were challenged by negative expectancy and achieved higher than expected. Boys were deflated by negative expectancy and achieved poorly.
KenCrest’s agency-wide philosophy of Positive Approaches is, in essence, a broad expectation of the children, adults and families we serve and we, those who serve them, that we will all achieve great things. Every day we all do things that we fully believe that will result in success and the achievement of the goals we are working on. Keep reaching higher and expecting more!