Children in a classroom in early 20th century black and white photo.
Little wonders of the classroom…

The Pygmalion Effect

How making someone feel better, actually makes them better.

Patrick Heller
2 min readOct 14, 2021


Research shows that our opinions and attitudes towards ourselves are a great deal affected by the opinions and attitudes of others. To a certain degree the way others see us can actually become a new reality whether there’s truth to the way they see us to begin with or not.

In other words, the expectations and beliefs of others about us can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In psychology, this phenomenon is called the Pygmalion Effect after the mythical roman sculptor who carved a statue of his ideal woman and brought her to life.

In a classic 1968 experiment by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, elementary school teachers were told that some of their students were shown by newly developed tests to go through an extraordinary intellectual growth phase in the coming months. In reality, these little wonders of the classroom were picked randomly. It is also crucial to note here that the kids did not know they were being marked as special. After eight months real IQ and other tests showed that these randomly picked kids had gained significantly more points in IQ and scored much better grades than their classmates. Researchers concluded that the mere beliefs and expectations of the teachers made the teachers create a better environment for these special students to thrive in. Also, through the different treatment by the teachers, these special kids actually felt special which in turn increased their self-image and their self-esteem, ultimately resulting in better school results.

Many experiments have already shown that the Pygmalion Effect also applies to adults and also in business settings. In short, if you treat your colleagues as if they were special, they will feel special and in the end, they will deliver special. Surely something to keep in mind.

If you are interested in psychology at work and want to go more in-depth, you can buy Essential Psychology for Modern Organizations from Amazon and other bookstores: