This is the focus of this study, particularly how negative self-fulfilling prophecies which consist of the communicated beliefs or perceptions of other people, can have a profound impact on a persons pessimistic self-image, thereby leading to a sullen behavior or gloomy attitude in life. It can work inversely, of course. Studies have shown that positive reinforcements or favorable self-fulfilling prophecies lead to normal functioning individuals.
Understanding the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy and attitudes are very useful, particularly in helping people avert serious repercussions as psychological illness and anxiety attacks that may curtail enjoyment of productive, happy and meaningful lives. The Effect of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies on Self-Concept The formative role of language in the development of self- concept is something that cannot be overlooked.
When parents, caregivers, or relatives who assume a caregiver role explicitly express through forceful language their strong contempt and harsh judgment, or show neglect for childrens emotional well-being, there is a high likelihood that these will affect the way the children will process information and form their concept of self. When all the scornful rebuke and criticisms are internalized by those children, they end up as self-fulfilling prophecies that contribute to poor self-concept. A case in point is the belittled girl in the selection, Life as an Alcoholic, whom we shall call Sue.
Her adoptive parent, actually her grandmother, is given to bouts of mouthing demeaning statements about her own kin. The forceful and bad things being uttered against the person of Sue by her own grandmother contributed to her poor self-concept. She ended up suffering the painful trauma of hearing hurtful words from a family member who could have been nurturing, gentle and caring. Clearly illustrating the bondage of criticism she fell into like a deep ravine, Sue noted, in particular, that there were two phrases that reverberated in her entire being as she grew up.
Throughout her life, imprinted in her consciousness were these words: Youre just like your mother. And, Nobody wants you 1 When her grandmother likens her to her mother in a negative way, says that Sue will end up turning out just like her, and keeps uttering words as hurtful as Nobody else wanted you, so I had to take you 2, Sue acknowledged that these were words became implanted in her consciousness and became self-fulfilling prophecies. From her physical looks and drinking habit, to being opinionated and argumentative 3 to some other similarities like seeking affection in
1. C. Brown & P. Keller. Monologue to dialogue, (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1973), p. 10. 2. Ibid, p. 9. 3. Ibid. men, Sue expressed how she did turn out like her mother. By internalizing all that her grandmother said, the utterances became self-fulfilling prophecies, which allowed the main character in the story to maintain a negative view of herself. This is mainly because to a large extent, she believed the utterances to be true and acted them out. Sociologist Robert Merton offered the following definition for self-fulfilling prophecy:
¦a false definition of situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true¦ What you believe will come true because you will subconsciously and consciously act in ways that cause the event to happen4 Merton theorized that self-fulfilling prophecies had the potential to create large-scale social problems. 5 Mertons initial investigation spurred other studies to be undertaken, paving the way for a large body of experimental work that provides strong evidence that the self-fulfilling prophecy is a real phenomenon that can occur when perceivers hold false beliefs about targets.
6 Indeed, Sues grandmother may have nurtured false beliefs or perception about her, owing probably to the social and economic circumstances the family found itself in. Based on her expressed sentiments, Sue has not easily recovered from the trauma of verbal abuse that she went through all the years she was growing up under the custody of her grandmother. Yet she cited how she was able to form a relationship with her significant other. The latter is quite significant in that it offered her a way to veer away from the pain
4. Laurie Kienlen. Self Fulfilling Prophecies, March 2007, retrieved 22 February 2009,
It is clear that she has not yet totally reconciled her husbands positive and actual response towards her with her perception of how others are to respond to her. In chapter 9 of her book, Communication Mosaics: An Introduction to the Field of Communication, 7 author Julia Wood touched on self-concept and effective communications, and tackled key concepts as attachment style, ambivalent attachment style, dismissive attachment style, and fearful attachment style.
While the main character in the story, whom we have called Sue, is clearly forward-thinking, as may be gleaned towards the end of the selection as far as her husbands perception of her is concerned, she seemed to still show ambivalent feelings that does, in fact, possess the good traits that other people, notably her husband, see in her. Overall, because of deep emotional hurts, Sue may be described as a person who is quite pessimistic such that it clouds her judgment about her own good qualities.
She embodies individuals with poor self-worth who see unfavorable circumstances and perceptions of other people about her as being more negative than really are. As psychological experts say: Negative appraisal habit leads them to over-react in a negative direction. They become intensely worried, anxious, guilty, ashamed, sad or depressed in a manner that seems quite out of proportion to someone who does not share their negative appraisal biases. Because the appraisal bias is chronic and habitual, the out of proportion mood reaction also becomes chronic.
Over time, the faulty or dysfunctional appraisal habit can lead to chronic mood and self-esteem problems and disorders¦ 8 Mark Dombeck & Jolyn Moran, Applying Learning Principles to Thoughts. Mentalhelp. net. June 2006, retrieved 23 February 2009,
It must be noted that various factors come into play in the formation of ones self-concept. The principle of psychological centrality ¦holds that the self concept is not a collection but an organization of parts, pieces, and components and that these are hierarchically organized and interrelated in complex ways 9 The probable reasons why Sue finds it quite difficult to regain her sense of self or overcome her poor self-concept is that the key messages or verbal attacks of her grandmother about her character and maternal background occupy a high level in her hierarchy of self.
She also kept hearing the negative comments over and over again, remaining in her consciousness for a long duration of time, and they were uttered by somebody closely connected to her. Fortunately for Sue, her social interaction which paved the way for her to meet somebody who supported and believed in her good traits, her husband, has been a key influential factor in enhancing her low self-esteem. The individuals concept of self emerges from social interaction and, in turn, guides or influences the behavior of the individual
Self-fulfilling prophecy is a critical factor in interpersonal communications, and in the development of self-concept. When negative messages forming other peoples unfounded or biased beliefs are transmitted by others and the recipient regards them as true, they become self-fulfilling prophecies. What I learned from the key concepts is that self-fulfilling prophecies formed when we act on other peoples preconceived notions and beliefs can mold character and shape ones future.
It can be self-defeating if a person does not learn how to nurture a healthier self-image through proper social interaction.