Expectations Shape Actions

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Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to change an opinion of yourself or others? As part of our mental process, our brains use a shortcut called Confirmation Bias to fast track our understanding of the world around us based on past experiences. This ability allows us to form quick assumptions that anchor our understanding of a situation. In turn, these reinforced beliefs of ourselves and others direct our attitudes and behaviors. The challenge is that when we’re continually seeking reinforcement for these existing beliefs, we are often ill-prepared to accept contradictory information that challenges our assumptions.

When it comes to plotting a new and different road to success for ourselves or others, this confirmatory bias can get in the way of what we think is possible. Worse yet, it often dictates how we treat others based on attributes that might not even be their own. It’s a psychosocial, environmental aspect of growth and development that can stunt progress for someone, even before they get started. The good news is, there’s a scientific method for changing it.

The Pygmalion Effect is the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to higher performance. In this animated short The Pygmalion Effect from Sprouts, key concepts about pattern reinforcement around Confirmation Bias, illustrate how our belief of somebody’s attributes shape our attitudes and behaviors towards them. This is important because your actions support their belief in themselves and even in their ability to succeed.

This week, consider how the perspectives you’ve formed about people nearest to you have come to be. Including yourself, consider if confirmation bias has directed your behavior towards them in an ill-advised way. As we’re forever fighting ourselves to reshape how our brains have been trained to think, the best approach for changing your behavior towards another is to first change your beliefs about them. It just might accelerate their potential.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

– George Bernard Shaw.

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