Self Fulfilling Prophecy

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SFP: Social Approach explanation for Criminal Behaviour

Labelling and SFP go together as an explanation of crime and anti-social behaviour- the process of the prophecy is that someone is first labelled and then 'becomes' the label.

Labelling involves a majority group considering a minority group as inferior and using inferior terms when talking about them e.g. 'hooligan' 'troublemaker' 'menace'

Stereotyping is thinking a whole group share certain characteristics. It is based on a generalised and simplified view e.g. a young offender is a hoodie-wearing youth who challenges authority and makes trouble.

Self Fulfilling Prophecy is a concept from social psychology that refers to the process of something coming true because it was predicted to happen.

The Effect of Labelling

1. Labels can affect an individual's self concept (how we see ourselves) and lead to SFP

2. Labels can affect the way others treat you and may lead to SFP

3. Society may label people according to the way others treat you and this may lead to SFP

Rosenthal & Jacobsen (1986)

In this famous study researchers administered an IQ test to all students in an elementary school and told teachers that some students had scored so well that they were sure to 'bloom' academically in the coming year. This was not necessarily true because the late bloomers had been chosen by the researchers and were no more likely to 'bloom' than any of the other children. Thus, the only way that the 'late bloomers' differed from the other children was in the minds of the teachers and their expectation that they would bloom academically in the coming year. (Neither the students or the parents were told the outcomes of the test.)

The classroom dynamics were observed periodically over the following year. At the end of the year all children were given another IQ test. The prophecy came true - the students in each class who had been identified as 'late bloomers' showed significantly higher gains in their IQ scores than the other children, and the teacher's expectations had become a reality.

Evaluation of Rosenthal & Jacobsen

+ The study was well controlled. Children were randomly chosen as 'about to bloom.' This supports SFP as clearly it was the teacher's expectations that caused the improvement in IQ.

+ The study is replicable- it was carefully planned so it can be tested for reliability. Other studies had similar results.


- The study was unethical, choosing children as 'late bloomers' is likely to create a situation where in they recieve more attention, which may be unfair to other students.

- The study is about SFP in education and cannot be readily be applied to crime situations where the social context is very different.

Jahoda (1954) Study of Names

This study supports how labels can lead to subsequent behaviour and focuses on the naming of children. In the Ashanti culture, boys were given names which included the day on which they were born. These names had attached…


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