Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: A Double-Edged Sword

Self-fulfilling prophecy has both negative and positive implications

A boy walks into a classroom on the first day of class. His teacher, without ever knowing him, all of a sudden makes judgments on his intelligence. There was no reason for her to think that way. Because of this, she focuses less on him. She does not challenge him, nor ask questions. She is even more critical when he makes a mistake, as opposed to the other students. This notion from the teacher makes him feel inadequate, and he has no confidence in his ability to score well on assignments. He starts to feel tense in the classroom, afraid to disappoint. This anxiety is affecting his performance, thus confirming the teacher’s beliefs. Cycle continues.


What exactly is it?

Self-fulfilling prophecy is an expectation about a subject, person or event, that can affect our behavior toward that subject, which then the expectation becomes a reality.

We have the potential to be easily manipulated by others, and that is pretty scary territory. When we fully understand the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy, we can then view situations from an outsiders perspective. When we find ourselves in a situation where we can sense other’s doubts, we can take a step back, and analyze what is happening. Am I allowing this person to affect my ability to accomplish a task? Vice versa.

It does not have to be negative like the above example, but it can work exactly the opposite as well. If the teacher immediately thought the boy was gifted, she would be very attentive toward him and challenge him more. This act would make the child feel wanted and confident in his abilities to excel in class and fulfill his teacher’s expectations. More than likely, one can assume that he will do well, and the cycle of praise and excelling will continue indefinitely.



Parents, teachers and caretakers should be well aware of the crucial role they play. They are role models in the minds of impressionable children, as children are very receptive to their environment. When they get the feeling someone thinks they are unintelligent, they are likely to end up like that because they are expected to act accordingly. Anyone is prone to be affected by the self-fulfilling prophecy – it is just a matter or how well you can detect it. A great way to make great use of self-fulfilling prophecy is to take advantage of its positive qualities.

About Renee Lynn 8 Articles
Renee Lynn is the founder of Mental Suite. With this site, she hopes to bring about a pop psychology resource, with an inspirational twist, to appeal to the masses. She holds a B.S. double major in psychology and child development and is intrinsically motivated to learn more and share in-depth about the subject. Aside from focusing on the site, you can find her delving in her passions in writing, photography and traveling.