This concept is a popular one in pop culture and oft-referenced by self-help gurus, life coaches, and others looking to make their living by motivating and encouraging others.
Psychologists have found strong evidence for the impact of our beliefs and expectations on outcomes, particularly when we are convinced that our predictions will manifest, and even when we don’t necessarily consciously know that we hold the expectation.A commonly understood example of the self-fulfilling prophecy in psychology is what is known as the placebo effect (Isaksen, 2012).By trying to avoid fate, both Laius and Oedipus ensured that the prophecy would manifest.This compelling tale helped the self-fulfilling prophecy to become a popular trope in literature and film, but it’s also a much-researched concept in psychology.Although self-fulfilling prophecies can manifest in a variety of ways, Merton was most interested in understanding how the phenomenon plays out in racial prejudice and discrimination.
He noticed that people with prejudices about individuals of other races were likely to treat them in such a way that these individuals were actually encouraged to behave in ways that confirmed the prejudices.
Once Oedipus kills the strange man, he marries his widow.
He later learns that the man he killed was his actual father and that his new bride is actually his mother.
By his second year, he was already publishing with some of these leading sociologists, and he eventually became one of the most influential social scientists himself (Calhoun, 2003).
Perhaps it was his upbringing in one of the “slums” of South Philadelphia that informed his theory of the self-fulfilling prophecy; after all, his is one of the classic “American dream” trajectories that is usually accompanied by a strong conviction in one’s talents and abilities.
For example, if you wake up and immediately think—for whatever reason or for no particular reason at all—that today is going to be a terrible day, your attitude might make your prediction come true.