You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:


Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

The Concept of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

William E. Wilkins
Sociology of Education
Vol. 49, No. 2 (Apr., 1976), pp. 175-183
DOI: 10.2307/2112523
Stable URL:
Page Count: 9
Subjects: Education Sociology
  • Download PDF
  • Add to My Lists
  • Cite this Item
The Concept of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
We're having trouble loading this content. Download PDF instead.


The recent deluge of experiments on teacher expectations has failed to provide consistent and unambiguous findings. It is argued in this paper that one of the primary reasons for the inconsistent results is the failure to understand the roots and workings of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Seven aspects of the self-fulfilling prophecy are discussed under the rubric of two broad categories. The first category views changes in the environment as requisite for changes in interpersonal perceptions. The second category, consistent with research on teacher expectations, suggests that changes in interpersonal perceptions can occur without any previous changes in the environment. The logical extensions of these seven factors are discussed. Also presented is the suggestion that the key variables in teacher expectation studies are noncognitive and center on attitudes and attitude change.

Notes and References

This item contains 16 references.

  • 1
    Merton, writing in 1957
  • Allport, G. 1950 "The role of expectancy." Pp. 43-78 in H. Cantril, The Tensions That Cause Wars. Urbana: The University of Illinois.
  • Becker, H. S. 1952 "Social class variations in the teacher-pupil relationship." Journal of Educational Psychology25:451-455.
  • Brameld, T. 1972 "Education as self-fulfilling prophecy." Phi Delta Kappan (September).
  • Clark, K. 1965Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. 1964Youth in the Ghetto. New York: HARYOU.
  • Jencks, C., et al. 1972Inequality. New York: Basic Books.
  • Katz, D. 1960 "The functional approach to the study of attitudes." Public Opinion Quarterly 24:163-204.
  • Katz, I. 1964 "Review of evidence relating to effects of desegregation on the intellectual per- formance of Negroes." American Psychol- ogist19:381-399.
  • Laing, R. D. 1969The Politics of the Family. New York: Pantheon Books.
  • MacKinnon, D. W. 1962 "The nature and nurture of creative tal- ent." American Psychologist17:484-495.
  • Merton, R. 1957Social Theory and Social Structure. Glen- coe: The Free Press.
  • Rist, R. 1970 "Student social class and teacher expecta- tions: The self-fulfilling prophecy in ghetto education." Harvard Educational Review 40:411-451.
  • Rose, A. 1956The Negro in America. Boston: Beacon.
  • Rosenthal, R., and Jacobson, J. 1968Pygmalion in the Classroom. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc.
  • Thomas, W. I. 1928The Child in America. New York: A. A. Knopf.