Self-fulfilling prophecy

From Academic Kids

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that, in being made, actually causes itself to become true. For example, in the stock market, if it is widely believed that a crash is imminent, investors may lose confidence, sell most of their stock, and actually cause the crash. Or, if a candidate in an election openly declares he does not believe he can win, this may increase voter apathy and result in poor support for his campaign.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are often seen as similar to the predestination paradox, in which a person travels back in time to prevent an event, but ends up causing it. These two phenomena differ on a key point however. A self-fulfilling prophecy is when a person with knowledge of future events alters his behaviour in a way that ends up causing these events. On the other hand, a predestination paradox is when a person with knowledge of past events goes back in time, and ends up causing the events.



Self-fulfilling prophecy is sometimes seen as a manifestation of positive feedback in human society. In short, because a given prophecy was known, and was sufficiently credible, it affected people's actions and caused itself. Robert K. Merton is usually acknowledged as the maker of this phrase and using it in sociology.

Examples abound in studies of cognitive dissonance theory and the related self-perception theory; People will often change their attitudes to come into line with what they profess publicly.

Other specific examples discussed in psychology include:


In literature, self-fulfilling prophecies are often used as plot devices.

One of the earliest examples of self-fulfilling prophecies in literature is the ancient Greek legend of Oedipus. Warned that his child would one day kill him, Laius abandoned his newborn son Oedipus to die. But Oedipus was instead adopted by a foster family, and kept ignorant of his true origins. When he grew up, Oedipus was warn that he would kill his father and marry his mother. However, believing his foster parents were his real parents, he left his home and travelled Greece, eventually reaching the city where his biological parents lived. There, he got into a fight with a stranger and killed him, and married his widow. Unknown to anyone at the time, the stranger was Oedipus real father, and the widow he married was his mother. Hence, the prophecy about him had come true because of everyone's attempts to prevent it.


In 1965, Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors on integrated circuits would double every 18 months. This prediction, which became known as Moore's law, was initially an observation of a trend in the early days of the semiconductor industry. However, it became a benchmark for the evolution of the industry, and a goal companies focused on attaining. It thus became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

See also

he:נבואה_המגשימה_את_עצמה pl:Samospełniające się proroctwo


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