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Why good people sometimes do bad things: 52 reflections on ethics at work
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in comparison to their classmates, were likely to make an intellectual leap in the coming eight
months. The teachers assumed that the list was based on the results of the IQ test, but in
reality it was a random selection of 20 percent of the students. There was actually no relation
whatsoever between the students mentioned and the IQ test. The only difference between
these children and the rest of the class was the assumption on the part of the teachers. After
eight months the test was repeated with all the children.
In all classes tested it turned out that the IQ of the students labeled ‘promising’ increased by
at least 12 percent more than the other students. The children for whom expectations were
high had made better progress in reality. It is worth noting that the teachers had not spent
more time on these students. In fact, they had spent less time on them. So what explained
the difference? The explanation was that the teachers, on the basis of their expectations,
had subconsciously adjusted their behavior towards the students. Without realizing it, the
teachers treated the students for whom they had higher expectations differently from the
others. Rosenthal and Jacobson found four factors in which the selected students were
treated differently. Firstly, the teachers established a warmer social relationship with them,
by giving them more personal and positive attention and support, and by talking to them in a
different tone of voice, for example. Secondly, the teachers gave them more learning material
at a higher level of dificulty, making them feel more challenged. Thirdly, the teachers gave
them more space in class to respond. And fourthly, the teachers provided them with more
and higher quality feedback on their work, both verbally and non-verbally. As a result, the
students behaved in accordance with the higher expectations of their teacher. This led to
them achieving more.
Conversely the students of whom the teachers expected less felt less challenged and behaved
accordingly. And because the teachers’ expectations were not high, they were more easily
satisied with the students’ achievements. In fact, the research revealed that the teachers felt
put out when these students performed well. An unexpectedly good achievement therefore
had a negative effect. The teachers did not reward this behavior, but punished it, because the
students were not fulilling their expectations. This is termed the Golem effect. Golem is not
only a character in the
Lord of the Rings
trilogy, but also a igure of Jewish legend. A robot-like
being was created to eradicate evil, but eventually the golem itself becomes a monster; the
more powerful it grows, the more evil it becomes.
5. What you expect is what you get: the Pygmalion and Golem effects