Self-fulfilling prophecy

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The self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction about the future that ensures its own validity, i.e. a prophecy that causes its own fulfilment. The subject of the prophecy may fail to act to avoid his fate, or his attempt to change the future may backfire. This does not stop some people from using such prophecies as proof of God.

Self-fulfilling prophecies form a prominent part of some ancient stories, like that of Oedipus, an infant prince prophesied to one day kill his father and marry his mother. His parents, eager to avoid this grim future, sent their child away to be raised in another land—and accidentally ensuring that he would grow up a stranger to them, making it all the easier for the grown Oedipus to kill a rude stranger on the road and marry the man's widow.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are present in daily life today, as well. It is not uncommon for underprivileged children to be viewed as part of a criminal element, which limits their opportunities and makes it more likely they will be forced into petty crime.

[edit] Other examples

  • When people of a particular racial or ethnic background are assumed to be "naturally" good at a particular activity, individuals from those backgrounds are likely to be encouraged to pursue that activity. For example, because blacks are assumed to be more likely to be gifted athletes than their more pale co-citizens, black youth may be more encouraged to run track or play basketball than to join the math club; with more black people being funneled into athletics programs, it will appear that they are somehow suited for sports. This is also related to stereotype threat, a theory in the field of social psychology developed by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson in 1995.
  • Gloomy predictions about politics can instill a sense of despair at inevitable corruption in an electorate, rendering them apathetic and inattentive - and allowing the corrupt to prosper. Likewise, a feeling of doom about the environment may inspire the young to feel that destruction and waste is unstoppable, and that efforts at conservation are useless.
  • When the media reports the economy doing poorly, this causes the population to lose confidence in the market, thus creating the prophesied economic downturn.
  • An individual suffering from depression may feel incapable of succeeding, and thus not bother even trying. This will likely aggravate the depression, in a vicious circle.
  • Slogans like "There are no girls on the Internet" are often taken as self-fulfilling prophecies, as the lack of openly active women in many online forums causes a treehouse mentality among the male members that in turn leads them to ostracise any women who attempt to become active.
  • Hype surrounding a fictional upcoming crisis can often cause panics that precipitate the problems the apocalyptic predictions mention. These can drive people to despair and, in extreme cases, suicide, meaning that their effects can be very real - even if only a in self-fulfilling way.
  • Conservative pundits accusing colleges of being "biased" against Republicans, or for trying to recruit homosexuals or liberals, thus turning colleges off from the idea of having conservative celebrities speak there. Similarly, the same conservative pundits having policies that make sane young people hate them on issues such as gay rights or the Iraq War, and then being surprised when colleges don't have as many conservative guests because they would prefer to save themselves the headache of having a student protest on campus. This leads to accusations that college students are "brainwashed," which makes young people hate conservative pundits even more.
  • Right-wingers who claim the government is always inefficient or just bad, and then decrease taxes without correspondingly decreasing spending by enough, which means the government receives less revenue and doesn't operate as well.
  • Religious fundamentalists or authoritarians who claim society needs strict, harsh laws to maintain order. This leads to their followers panicking if any of these laws are removed or "loosened up" on, creating chaos around issues that probably would have gone largely unnoticed if said leaders hadn't put said law(s) in place or defended them as vehemently as they had.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

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