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Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Mechanisms, Power, and Links to Social Problems



A core theme of social psychology is that perceivers can shape targets’ future behaviors through self-fulfilling prophecies. Self-fulfilling prophecies occur when perceivers’ false beliefs about targets initiate a sequence of events that ultimately cause targets to exhibit expectancy-consistent behaviors, thereby causing perceivers’ initially false beliefs to become true. This article reviews theory and research relevant to self-fulfilling prophecies with particular foci on the underlying mechanisms that produce self-fulfilling prophecies, the power of self-fulfilling prophecies to alter behavior, and the extent to which self-fulfilling prophecies contribute to social problems.