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Pygmalion Effect

So you are probably curious as to what the "pygmalion effect" is. It's not everyday that you see a blog title with this very strange word in it. The pygmalion effect, according to good old Wikipedia, is defined as the following...

"The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. ... A corollary of the Pygmalion effect is the golem effect, in which low expectations lead to a decrease in performance; both effects are forms of self-fulfilling prophecy."

Sounds interesting doesn't it? You might be wondering why a blogger of holistic health topics would decide to blog about something like this. So let's take a deeper look at how the pygmalion effect is used in the real word.

The Pygmalion effect, also known as the Rosenthal effect, is named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion where a sculptor fell in love with a carved statue that he had made. Other people recognize the Pygmalion effect as the Rosenthal effect after the Rosenthal- Jacobson study that was done involving teachers and students. In this study, teachers were basically told that some students were going to have a boost in their IQ scores within that school year and would perform better than the other students. The teachers knew the names of which students were expected to have an IQ score boost and inevitably treated these students differently and gave them more attention when compared to their other peers. The younger students from the school, grades one and two, had more significant IQ gains from the group of students who were expected to have an IQ boost. The researchers concluded that people's expectations can directly influence others. In this case, the teachers expectations directly effected the students achievement.

So how does this apply to holistic health?

Well, it applies to it in almost every practice, whether that is a holistic health practice or an allopathic practice. The Pygmalion effect is similar to what most people know as the placebo effect. Like, if you fall ill and you dwell on the fact that you are sick and not feeling well, you will stay ill longer. But if you think positively and encourage your body to heal, you will recover from your illness sooner rather than later. The use of the pygmalion effect is not limited to healthcare though. It is commonly used by employees, soldiers, and athletes to achieve better performance from the ones who work for them. When you think about this being used in the healthcare industry, it can be a very beneficial thing. For example, say you are a doctor and you are treating a burn victim who has more than 50% of their body burned. We all know that burn victims go through some excruciating pain while healing and recovering from their wounds both physically and mentally. If you decide to become a very positive and optimistic doctor and you are always speaking positive with your patient and being very optimistic about their recovery progress and time, the patient notices this. They start to believe you in most cases and feel a sense of "Yes, I can do this. I will get through this." This is the Pygmalion effect. But, if you are negative and questionable, this can cause them to doubt you and the treatments which can actually stress their body which can slow down the progress of healing.This is actually what is known as the Golem effect. (I'll save that for another blog post). Is this making sense? The doctor is semi-in control of the power of healing. The patient, when in a positive mindset despite the situation, could heal quicker when compared to a patient who has a doubtful doctor which is causing themself to stress over the progress of their healing.

I like how Jeroen DeFlander put it into words.

"When we believe a team member has the ability to be a great performer, our belief becomes a reality. The performance expectation we have for our team members is a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Personal relationships with your clients and patients are extremely important and beneficial to the outcome of their treatments. Figure out all the ins and outs of the behaviors your client has. What kind of person are they? How can you use this to your advantage to better help them? How will you encourage and support them while they are under your care so their outcome is better? You want your clients to believe in you, but you also want them to believe in themselves. Positive thinking has a great impact on people and their success in many different areas of life, healthcare is just one of them.


Pygmalion effect. (2017). Retrieved 28 May 2017, from

Pygmalion Effect: definition & examples!. Jeroen De Flander. Retrieved 5 June 2017, from

The Hawthorne, Pygmalion, Placebo and other effects of expectation. (2016). Retrieved 28 May 2017, from

The Pygmalion Effect and the Power of Positive Expectations. (2011). Retrieved from

The Pygmalion Effect vs. the Golem Effect: Lead Patients Using Warmth and Trust! - Review of Optometric Business. Review of Optometric Business. Retrieved 28 May 2017, from

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