Pygmalion Effect: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 0:20 Key Concepts
  • 1:12 Example
  • 1:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

The Pygmalion effect is a psychological principle that has relevance to effectively managing people. In this lesson, you will learn what the Pygmalion effect is, some key concepts behind it and review an examples that relates this concept to the workplace. A short quiz follows the lesson.


The Pygmalion effect is a type of self-fulfilling prophecy where if you think something will happen, you may unconsciously make it happen through your actions or inaction. It occurs in the workplace when a manager raises his or her expectations for the performance of workers, and this actually results in an increase in worker performance.

Key Concepts

Research has clearly established that employees have a greater level of success when their managers expect more of them. If you believe your employees are high producers and treat them as high producers, they tend to become high producers. This is because your belief in your employees tends to boost their self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a person's belief in his or her ability to perform the actions necessary for success.

The Pygmalion-at-work model suggests that having high expectations of your employees makes you behave towards them in a way that enhances their self-efficacy, which will motivate them to expend more effort, resulting in increased performance.

Managers must keep in mind that self-fulfilling prophecies can cut both ways. If you have low expectations for your employees, you may be inadvertently hurting their performance by negatively impacting their self-efficacy. This is known as the golem effect.


Let's say that you are a sales manager at an insurance company. You manage a team of ten sales people, and you carefully hand-selected each member of your sales team, believing them to be highly qualified with expert product knowledge and gifted with natural salesmanship. You make sure that they know they are the best sales team in the company and provide positive feedback and encouragement to each individual and as a team. Each member of the team starts to believe they are part of the best team of producers in the company and strive harder than the other teams to meet their productions goals, which they eventually exceed. Your expectation of your team's ability and performance has become a reality.

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