Self-fulfilling prophecies are a relatively widespread phenomenon because we tend to get what we expect. If we expect to fail, we most certainly will be right. What we expect to happen influences our behavior on almost imperceptible levels sometimes. We also tend to exhibit behaviors based on our expectations of other people and they in turn, responding to our behavior, may act just as we have predicted. For instance, if you are told that someone is normally very short-tempered and difficult to deal with when you approach the person you may (subconsciously) be uncomfortable or defensive. The other person may sense your irritability and respond to it in ways that might be construed as short-tempered. Research shows that self-fulfilling prophecies operate in work settings, courtrooms, and school rooms with relative frequency (p.115).
Self-fulfilling prophecies are common because of behavioral confirmation (p. 116). In social situations individuals often behave in ways that cause others to confirm their expectations of them. Dr. David Myers gives an example of a telephone experiment where men were shown pictures of women (attractive and unattractive) before they spoke with the women on the phone. To the women that the men perceived as attractive their tones were both more friendly and flirtatious causing the women on the end of the line to be more open and flirtatious thereby fulfilling the male participant’s prophecy that attractive women are kinder and more open.
How often do we color the outcome of a situation merely be failing to take into account what kind of preconceived notions we carry in to the scenario? Perhaps by taking a mental note and clearing any preconceptions, we can interact better with others and achieve pleasantly surprising results more often.