The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and the Fundamental Attribution Error

As I wrote about in my last post, I am a camp counselor at a summer arts camp for children ten to eighteen years of age. One of my campers, who I will call Charlie, has been kind of a loner during morning free time, snack and lunch. He often sits in a corner either on his phone or is drawing in a notebook. Because Charlie was always actively engaged during class time we assumed, as counselors, that Charlie simply wanted to be alone during free time. Some campers are introverts and need that time to relax and recharge. I thought Charlie was one of those kids.

As I began to think about this blog post, I found myself pondering the self-fulfilling prophecy. I started to realize that this theory might apply to the way I view Charlie’s anti-social behavior. If I assume that Charlie is antisocial and likes it that way then I am less likely to offer Charlie assistance in becoming more social which only makes Charlie not find friends and makes me further believe that he likes being alone. I should clarify that Charlie is ten year olds so it is harder for him to take initiative than an older person. We are also at the stage in camp where friend groups have already been formed and therefore Charlie would feel more insecure about making the first move. I planned to try to encourage Charlie to reach out to more people during free time to see if he actually likes being alone. What I found when I attempted to do this is that Charlie really likes to talk. He very enthusiastically spoke to me about his interests. This behavior completely surprised me. I asked him if he liked sitting by himself during free time and he immediately not only told me he wanted to sit with other campers he also told me exactly what group of kids he wanted to sit with.

Thinking about the self-fulfilling prophecy has made me think about how it can be related to attributions. If it were more instinctual for people to look at behavior as an external attribution this prophecy would be less likely to be fulfilled. Fundamental Attribution Error appears to be heavily linked to the self-fulfilling prophecy. More awareness of FAE may lead to more awareness about how our perceptions color behavior.

I also began to have questions about the self-fulfilling prophecy and how it may become a factor that is related to internal attributes. How might incorrect attributions of behavior lead a person to incorrectly perceive how someone is treating them and hurt their own mental health as a result? Looking at the covariation model and using it to guide perception might not only lead to more accurate conclusions about people but actually help people realize that their self perceptions might be built on incorrect assumptions about why people treat them they way that they do. This class focuses a lot of attention about how our perceptions of people may be incorrect and how that is not the greatest for the person we are jumping to conclusions about but this could also effect our own self-perceptions and therefore our self esteem.

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