Pygmalion versus self-expectancy: Effects of instructor- and self-expectancy on trainee performance

Dov Eden*, Gad Ravid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Pygmalion effect was recently demonstrated experimentally for the first time with adult military trainees by Eden and Shani (1979, 1982). The present field experiment was conducted in order to replicate the conventional Pygmalion effect and to test the effects on learning performance of directly inducing high self-expectancy among trainees themselves. Trainees included 60 men in the first half-year of military duty enrolled in a 7-week clerical course divided into 5 training groups, each instructed by an instructor-commander. To produce the Pygmalion effect, a random quarter of each instructor's trainees were described to the instructor as having high success potential (SP). Another random quarter were told directly by a psychologist in a brief personal interview that they had high SP, in order to induce high self-expectancy directly. The remaining trainees served as controls. Learning performance as measured by both weekly instructor ratings and weekly written examinations was significantly higher in both high expectancy groups than in controls, confirming the Pygmalion hypothesis and our hypothesis that inducing high self-expectations similarly enhances trainee performance. Several instructors were unexpectedly relieved midway through the course. The hypothesized performance differentials continued unabated even though we abstained from refreshing the expectancy induction among the relief instructors. This "second-generation" effect underscores the durability of expectancy effects. Equity played a mediating role; the trainees in the high expectancy conditions reporting dissonant feelings of overreward, probably impelling them to increase their inputs to improve their performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-364
Number of pages14
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Performance
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1982


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