Restraining the Golem: Boosting Performance by Changing the Interpretation of Low Scores

Sasson Oz, Dov Eden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Golem effect is the negative impact on subordinates' performance that results from low leader expectations toward them. We studied the effects of low expectations experimentally by preventing the natural formation of low expectations toward individuals who had obtained low test scores in some units and by refraining from doing so in other units. Randomly selected squad leaders (n = 17) were led to believe that low scores on a physical fitness test were not indicative of subordinates' ineptitude. Control squad leaders (n = 17) were not told how to interpret the test scores. Two posttests showed that low-scoring personnel in the experimental squads improved more than those in the control squads, maintained the difference, rated their squad leaders more favorably, and were more satisfied, but they were not significantly more anxious. The potential for low scores on valid tests to produce unintended Golem effects is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-754
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1994


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