Rat and expectations

Productivity 501 offers more wisdom from rats:

There was an experiment where researchers were given a set of rats and told to rate their ability to learn mazes. They were told that certain rats were “smart rats” and had an abnormally high IQ. When the researchers tested the rats, their studies showed that the “smart rats” performed significantly better than the ordinary rats.

The experiment, however, wasn’t focused on the rats, it was testing the researchers. All of the rats were the same, but telling the researchers that some of the rats were smart caused them to rate the rats better, even though there was no difference.

People will view what you do through their own set of prejudices. To a certain extent, your ability to succeed is determined by what people think of you ahead of time. When it comes to humans, very few things are actually objective.

By being aware of this, you can help yourself prepare for the future by nurturing positive impressions of yourself with those around you. If they expect you to succeed, you are more likely to (at least in their eyes) than if they expect you to fail.

That expectations influence perception has been demonstrated over and over again. The comments from the post referenced above include other examples. What is more important for professional helpers is that expectations influence not only perceptions about clients, but also influence outcomes. Consider this passage from an article by Arnold Washton.

A revealing study demonstrates how clinician expectancy can create a self–fulfilling prophecy. Counselors were told that according to sophisticated personality test profiles, certain alcoholic patients were likely to do very well in treatment.

These patients, who had actually been selected at random, were subsequently rated by the counselors as more motivated, more compliant, more punctual, more cooperative, and demonstrating more effort.

They actually showed significantly fewer absences and dropouts and had more sober days and fewer slips at one-year follow up. The counselor’s expectation of success in these “good prognosis” patients apparently led them to behave more therapeutically toward these patients.

Earlier posts about the role of expectations in recovery-oriented practice can be found here.