Self-Fulfilling Prophecy | Examples & Definition

A self-fulfilling prophecy describes a set of circumstances where a person’s belief about a future situation contributes to that belief coming true. It is more likely to be a negative belief or outcome. The explanation for the phenomenon is that our expectations unconsciously affect our behavior.

Self-fulfilling prophecy example
You are a keen amateur photographer, and your brother has asked you to photograph his wedding. You can’t really say no, but you don’t think you are good enough. As a consequence, you are nervous on the day, fumbling with the camera and equipment, and making the bridal party and guests nervous.

As a result, the photos are awkward and don’t come up to the standard you would like. Your beliefs about your abilities have caused you to underperform, and what you feared would come true, has.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is not necessarily a negative thing, and it can be positive. Self-fulfilling prophecies can be found in all manner of contexts, such as business, healthcare, or education.

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Representativeness Heuristic | Examples & Definition

The representativeness heuristic is a mental shortcut we use to decide the probability of something based on how typical we think it is. We assign this thing to a category and decide how similar we think it is to an “average” representative of that category.

Representativeness heuristic example
You are on the train with a friend, and a woman sits down opposite you.

She is dressed in colorful, flamboyant clothes and is reading the arts section of The New York Times.

When she gets out at the next stop, your friend says, “Do you think she was a famous artist?”

You reply, “Well, she definitely wasn’t a lawyer!”

Although there is a much greater proportion of lawyers in the population than artists, you think that the woman is more likely to be an artist because her appearance and choice of reading material match your perception of a typical artist.

The representativeness heuristic allows us to make quick and efficient decisions, but it can cause us to arrive at false conclusions and disregard relevant information.

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What Is the Placebo Effect? | Definition & Examples

The placebo effect refers to a phenomenon whereby patients experience an improvement in their physical ailment after taking a non-treatment, called a placebo.

The treatment contains no active ingredients, meaning that any improvement experienced by the patient is caused by their expectation or belief that the “treatment” is doing them some good.

Placebo effect example
As a life-long sufferer from back pain, you are invited to take part in a double-blind trial of a new treatment. It is a preventative treatment, and you take one pill three times per day, as instructed, and record your pain levels in a journal. At the end of the month-long trial, your journal shows that the medication appears to be having a positive effect, as there is a clear improvement in the levels of chronic pain.

When you report your findings to the researchers, you (and they) discover that your treatment was, in fact, nothing more than a sugar pill rather than the new drug. The improvement you perceived was due to the placebo effect.

In double-blind medical trials, where the experimental design includes both control and treatment groups, the placebo effect is often seen in the control group.

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What Is Recency Bias? | Definition & Examples

Recency bias is the tendency of recent events to receive more weight in our thinking when we make decisions about a future course of action. Because they are recent, some events loom large in our consciousness as we consider likely future outcomes.

Recency bias example
Recency bias can be seen in people’s attitude to flying. Although airplanes remain one of the safest forms of transport, news reports of an air disaster can affect people’s willingness to fly, or how anxious they are when flying.

The recency of the event makes flying seem less safe.

Our brains are more likely to recall recent events than past ones, and these can override our ability to analyze clearly.

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What Is Hindsight Bias? | Definition & Examples

Hindsight bias is our tendency to overestimate how predictable we thought an event was after it has happened. This can lead to overconfidence about our powers of judgment and cause us to make risky decisions or unfairly criticize the actions of others.

Hindsight bias example
Martin is a soccer fan and goes to watch his favorite team play on the weekend.

The coach of the team has decided to include a young player in the starting lineup.

Martin discusses this decision with his friend before the match. They agree that it is a bit risky because the young player is inexperienced, but it is good that he will be replacing a player who did not play well in the last match.

Martin’s team loses the match. At work on Monday, he discusses the result with one of his colleagues. Martin says that he knew his team would lose because the young player was too inexperienced.

Hindsight bias has made Martin think that he was certain that his team would lose. But in truth, he did not predict this with confidence.

Hindsight bias is also known as the “knew-it-all-along phenomenon.” It can lead us to wrongly believe that an outcome, such as a sports score, election result, or medical error, was more certain than it actually was.

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What Is the Pygmalion Effect? | Meaning & Examples

The Pygmalion effect describes how high expectations of someone tend to lead to better performance, while lower expectations have the opposite effect.

The Pygmalion effect was originally identified by psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson in classroom settings. But it is also applied to studies in business, sport, and management.

Pygmalion effect example
A teacher has high expectations of one particular student, Adil, and low expectations of another, Sean. Adil is given challenging tasks because the teacher believes they can succeed at them. When Adil faces challenges, the teacher is quick to give them support and advice.

Sean, on the other hand, is given more basic tasks, and the teacher doesn’t give them the attention they need when they struggle with these tasks. As a result, Adil makes significant improvement, while Sean’s improvement is much less marked.

The teacher’s high expectations affected the way they worked with each student, which had a knock-on effect on the progress they made.

The Pygmalion effect is also called the Rosenthal effect after one of the researchers in the original study.

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What Is the Halo Effect? | Definition & Examples

The halo effect describes the psychological phenomenon of allowing an overall initial impression of something, based on a single desirable characteristic, to positively influence future decisions we make about it, even though this characteristic is not relevant to these decisions.

The halo effect can influence choices we make about people, products and brands.

Halo effect example
Maria is a manager and has to complete performance reviews of Lidia and Henri, two employees in her team who do the same job.

Henri is always very enthusiastic about his work, whereas Lidia has a more reserved character.

Maria gives Henri a better appraisal than Lidia, even though they are both performing at the same level.

The positive “halo” around Henri, formed on the basis of a single, very noticeable positive trait, has unconsciously influenced Maria’s decision making and clouded her judgment.

The halo effect can lead to decision-making errors as it impairs our critical thinking. We need to be aware of it in situations such as job interviews and when making important purchases.

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What Is Cognitive Bias? | Definition, Examples & Types

Cognitive bias describes the way we tend to act irrationally because our ability to process information objectively is limited. It isn’t inherently bad, but it can affect how we perceive things.

It can also cloud our judgment about people or situations and how risky a set of circumstances might be.

Cognitive bias example
One common example of cognitive bias is the assumption that older employees are less adaptable to new technologies compared to their younger counterparts. This bias can influence managers’ decisions.

As a result, the older employee might be offered fewer opportunities for training, development, or career advancement. This might cause the worker to suffer from age-related workplace discrimination.

No one is immune to cognitive bias, so academics and researchers have to be aware of its possible effect on their research. Otherwise, cognitive bias might undermine their work.

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What Is Unconscious Bias? | Definition & Examples

Unconscious biases are instantaneous stereotyped judgments about people that escape our awareness. These biases often conflict with our consciously held values and beliefs.

Unconscious bias example
A tech company conducts a study revealing that resumes with conventionally white names received 50% more callbacks than those with names associated with other races, despite identical qualifications. This leads to the implementation of a blind recruitment process, which significantly increases diversity in the company’s hires.

Unconscious biases can be especially harmful in contexts where power is imbalanced, including business, academic, medical, and legal contexts.

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