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Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Psychological Problems and Solutions in Sport

What is a Self Fulfilling Prophecy?
       Any positive or negative expectations about circumstances, events, or people that can affect how a person behaves toward them in a manner that causes those expectations to be fulfilled.

      An individual who expects others to be disloyal and shirkers, will likely treat them in a way that will elicit the expected response which is taken to validate the original premise.

Positive and Negative Responses
      The expectations people have about how others will behave plays a major role in how people with interact with them. What you believe will become true cause you to act subconsciously and consciously in ways that will cause the event to happen. Self-fulfilling prophecies are powerful, and real.

The Group Effect of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
      Self-fulfilling prophecies work with groups, too, proving that two is better than one! It's called the synergistic accumulative effect, and it simply means that two or more people's expectations are more powerful than one person's. This can be seen in the emotional tides that occur in sporting events and the effect of fans rooting for their team.

      Self-fulfilling prophecies in families are particularly common as parents establish plans for their children's careers, attending their alma matter, sports participation, approval of boy and girl friends, religion, and political affiliation.

Psychologist Robert Rosenthal
      UC Riverside’s Robert Rosenthal launched a field of study that focuses on how body movement and tone of voice can influence jury trials, student performance and patient outcomes.  His research into experimenter bias and other types of self-fulfilling prophecy led to an increased emphasis on the importance of double-blind studies in the social and biomedical sciences.

     50 years of studies by social and behavioral researchers which showed that these researchers too often obtained the results they expected because of their own unrecognized self-fulfilling prophecies.

     “That finding led to experiments showing that teachers who had been led to expect superior intellectual performance from their students obtained superior intellectual performance from their students. Other studies found that, in business and in military situations, when supervisors were led to expect superior performance they obtained superior performance,” he said. “As with teachers, researchers and clever horses, self-fulfilling prophecies were at work.”

      Studies of self-fulfilling prophecies led to research on nonverbal communication which found that a physician’s tone of voice in talking with or about patients could predict their success in referring alcoholic patients to treatment and, in the case of surgeons, could predict their likelihood of being sued by their patients. In courtrooms, judges’ beliefs about the guilt of defendants was associated with nonverbal cues to the jury that markedly affected the verdicts rendered by California juries.

Rosenthal taught at Harvard University for 37 years before joining the UCR faculty in 1999.
He earned a B.A. and Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA, has won numerous awards for his research, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Recommended Reading:

PDF   The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Self-fulfilling prophecy  a principle that states that a belief in or the expectation of a particular resolution is a factor that contributes to its fulfillment.

Overcoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection It is an unfortunate fact that, if you expect someone you meet for the first time not to like you, you tend to behave more distantly towards them. This increases the chances that they won’t like you. The reverse is also true: if you assume that you will be liked, you tend to behave more warmly and thus increase your chances of being liked.

PDF Managing Student-Athletes' Mental Health Issues A student-athlete’s “mental health” might be viewed as secondary to physical health; however, it is every bit as important. It makes little sense to try to separate the “mind” and “body.” One affects the other. Medical problems often have psychological or emotional consequences. Psychological problems (e.g., eating disorders,
substance-related problems, etc.) typically have medical consequences. Some signs and symptoms of possible mental health problems.

Integrating sport psychology and sports counseling Up to 15 percent of American athletes suffer from psychosocial problems. Clinicians are searching for solutions to problems -   sport psychologists concentrate on performance enhancement and mental skills training. Sports counselors focus on the athlete's psychoemotional difficulties and development as an individual.

Although the disciplines of sport psychology and sports counseling have traditionally been distinct, the integration of these areas is necessary for the effective integrated sport psychology/sports counseling emphasis.

Psychological skills training myths Most athletes' psychological needs can be addressed by educational sport psychology ... Myth 3: PST Provides “Quick Fix” Solutions. Many people mistakenly think that sport psychology offers a quick fix to psychological problems.

Competition stress in sport performers  Examination of the performance and organizational stressors encountered by elite and non-elite athletes within the competition environment.

Importance of Youth Involvement in Sports  Participation in competitive team sports at an early age gives children an opportunity to understand the healthy aspects of competition in a friendly environment.

Benefits of Competitive Sports Not Always Clear-cut   Oct. 5, 2011  The Athlete's Sports Experience: Making A Difference and comprehensive developmental nature of the competitive sports environment.

Physical Education & Sports Policy for Schools   The Physical Education and Sports Program's learning environment suggests competitive sport should contribute to the health and well being of the student.

PDF STAY AND PLAY The rules in non-competitive sport can be changed to suit the participants and environment to ensure everyone can 'play' and that no one is excluded.


  • Coaches' Corner: Making Youth Sports Safe and Enjoyable   Many youngsters enter organized sports programs before age 6, and ... playing techniques can only be learned in a supervised sports environment, ... Competitive sports may increase the potential for psychological harm to certain youngsters.
  • Anxiety In Sports  May 6, 2010 ... Anxiety in sport is most common in competitive sports environments and could also be termed competitive stress.
  • PDF Youth Sports: Innocence Lost   In a competitive sport environment the rules are guarded by officials and the important decisions are made by the coaches.


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
and combined
with information from public institutions, plus athletic organizations/ associations that have a web presence with concerning team and individual sports programs:

Flow/Peak Performance
Focus & Concentration
Goals and Objectives
Goal Setting
Personal Sabotage
Self Fulfilling Prophecy

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The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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