The Expectancy Effect

Posted on December 10, 2021

Researchers conducted a study of sixty adult military trainees to test whether induced high self-expectancy enhanced learning performance.

The trainees were divided into five groups. A random quarter of them were described to the five instructor-commanders as having high success potential. Another random quarter of trainees were told directly by a psychologist that they too held high success potential. The remaining trainees served as controls.

The researchers in summarising their findings said, "Learning performance...was significantly higher in both high expectancy groups than in controls, confirming...that inducing high self-expectations similarly enhances trainee performance." 1 (And this is but one of numerous studies that have been conducted with students, employees, and rats - all confirming this high expectancy-effect).

What if we as leaders communicated to all of our people—the high performers, low performers, the battlers, and the laggards—that they too, have high success potential? With higher expectations of themselves induced from leadership's belief in them, I wonder if their productivity and task engagement would increase?

I think it just might...

1 Dov Eden, Gad Ravid, Pygmalion versus self-expectancy: Effects of instructor- and self-expectancy on trainee performance, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, Volume 30, Issue 3, 1982, Pages 351-364, ISSN 0030-5073, https://doi.org/10.1016/0030-5073(82)90225-2.


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