The Golem Effect: What It is and How to Escape It - Growth Freaks

The Golem Effect: What It is and How to Escape It

golem illustration of the golem effect

Pre-conceptions can influence both the perceiver and the perceived individual’s behavior in the classroom, office, art projects, sports, interpersonal relationships, and more. Expectations can leave their mark of influence on perceptions, performance, and productivity.

Creating a Monster

The Golem effect might be labeled as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is that behavioral and psychological phenomenon where lower expectations are put on an individual by someone in authority, such as a professor, supervisor, coach, boss, or another person in power, and the subordinate’s performance lives down to poor expectations.

We can think of if this way: in a situation such as a classroom, office, workshop, football field, some leaders may seek as much information as they can, as quickly as possible. They want to allocate time, attention, resources, and responsibility. That is the good intention behind the Golem. However, when verbal and non-verbal responses are based on negative pre-conceptions and the individual notes the lower expectations and react with a with a poor performance then the effect becomes a monster.

The Pygmalion Effect

The Pygmalion effect is the corollary and exact opposite effect. This is when an individual in authority has high expectations. These expectations lead to a better performance in the person being under observation. The Pygmalion Effect gains its name from the Greek myth of Pygmalion. It is the story of a sculptor who creates and then falls in love with his creation. In this effect syndrome, the individual who is being judged often turns in a superior performance based on the self-fulfilling prophecy or, as some have speculated, because the leader expects or perceives a superior performance.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Both the Golem Effect and the Pygmalion Effect demonstrate the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy. They show that people tend to both live up to expectations and that expectations tend to influence the judgment of behavior and output, Golem for negative expectations, Pygmalion for the positive.

The Danger of Low Expectations

The danger of low expectations can be insidious. The tragedy is that certain marginalized groups who are the most vulnerable. They range from stereotypes of a race to differentially-abled to the elderly to the mentally ill and addicted. They often face the lowest expectations and then fulfill the perceived mandate for their work. Consequently, they underperform and the cycle can, if not monitored, perpetuate itself.

How to Tame the Monster

The first tool is awareness. For leaders, it is imperative to attempt to view the individual in a clear manner and to encourage and evaluate in an honest and fair way. Endeavor to promote positive feedback and place the emphasis on solutions while demonstrating strategies for development and success.

For the individual being under observation, it is vital to be aware of one’s talents, strengths, retain self-awareness, seek mentoring, and create multiple streams of feedback.

If you have any experience with the Golem Effect, please leave a comment. If this article might help others, please share via social media. Thank you for reading!


Author: Amanda Knowles