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What Is Self-Fulfilling Prophecy



Self-fulfilling prophecy is coined by 20th-century sociologist Robert K Merton.  In his 1948 article Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Merton defines it in the following terms:

The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.

Which to put in a simple way is a phenomenon where first an individual predict something and that prediction later comes true, but it’s not because of some supernatural power but rather the prediction itself comes true, directly or indirectly, because of the prophecy. For example, a father says “my elder son is not going to achieve anything in his life, he gonna be a loser.” This thought of him drives him to invest less on the son’s study, often neglects him, shows less of care and affection. All these factors negatively impact the son’s life. No better education, no love and care and affection, despised and neglected, low in self esteem, lead the son to achieve nothing much in life. Then father be like “Look, I told you all, that my elder son will not achieve anything in his life..gonna be a loser”
That is self-fulfilling prophecy. You predict something and then knowingly/unknowingly act to cause the prediction come true. “Mark my word, our relationship will not last long” “My daughter will make me proud some day” “He is a terrible leader. He will fail our country” are few examples that we often hear in our day to day life, and as the prophecy comes true, they come and say “Look, I told you!” What the person fails to see is, his prediction came true because he acted upon and influenced the involved parties to react enough to ultimately fulfill the prophecy.Self-fulfilling prophecy has a wider implication in all aspects of our life. The prominent real-world example is, inflation. Mass assumes rice price will go up, then everyone starts buying rice, thus high in demand, and ultimately raising price of rice. Another example is politics. Opposition party claims the new government is not good for country, then they start opposing the government for everything it does, creating more political chaos, and ultimately the new government turns out to be bad for the country.
It can also have a positive effect though. Like on above examples from positive side. Pygmalion effect as is popularly known.

People react not only to the situations they are in, but also, and often primarily, to the way they perceive the situations and to the meaning they assign to these perceptions. — Thomas Theoram.

Therefore, they say, you become what you believe in, you get what you want, things can happen as you wish, Positive wants and wishes lead to positive outcomes, negative to negative outcomes.
To sum up, self-fulfilling prophecy and how it works, this quote of Mahatma Gandhi says it all,

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”

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