Then one day, a large number of customers come to the bank at once—the exact reason is never made clear. Customers, seeing so many others at the bank, begin to worry. False rumours spread that something is wrong with the bank, and more customers rush to the bank to try to get some of their money out while they still can.
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The number of customers at the bank increases, as does their annoyance and excitement, which in turn fuels the false rumours of the bank's insolvency and upcoming bankruptcy , causing more customers to come and try to withdraw their money. At the beginning of the day—the last one for Millingville's bank—the bank was not insolvent. But the rumour of insolvency caused a sudden demand of withdrawal of too many customers, which could not be answered, causing the bank to become insolvent and declare bankruptcy.
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Merton concludes this example with the following analysis:. The parable tells us that public definitions of a situation prophecies or predictions become an integral part of the situation and thus affect subsequent developments. This is peculiar to human affairs. It is not found in the world of nature, untouched by human hands. Predictions of the return of Halley's comet do not influence its orbit. But the rumoured insolvency of Millingville's bank did affect the actual outcome. The prophecy of collapse led to its own fulfilment.
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Merton concluded that the only way to break the cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy is by redefining the propositions on which its false assumptions are originally based. In economic "expectations models" of inflation, peoples' expectations of future inflation lead them to spend more today and demand higher nominal interest rates for any savings, since they expect that prices will be rising. This demand for higher nominal interest rates and increased spending in the present, in turn, create inflationary pressure and can cause inflation even if the expectations of future inflation are unfounded.
Philosopher Karl Popper called the self-fulfilling prophecy the Oedipus effect:. One of the ideas I had discussed in The Poverty of Historicism was the influence of a prediction upon the event predicted. I had called this the "Oedipus effect", because the oracle played a most important role in the sequence of events which led to the fulfilment of its prophecy. But in biology, too—even in molecular biology—expectations often play a role in bringing about what has been expected.
Examples abound [ example needed ] in studies of cognitive dissonance theory and the related self-perception theory ; people will often change their attitudes to come into line with what they profess publicly. In the United States, the concept was broadly and consistently applied in the field of public education reform, following the " War on Poverty ". The phenomenon of the "inevitability of war" is a self-fulfilling prophecy that has received considerable study.
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A more Jamesian example: There is extensive evidence [ where? The mechanisms by which this occurs are also reasonably well understood: In the case of the "Interpersonal Expectation Effects", others pick up on non-verbal behaviour, which affects their attitudes. A famous [ according to whom? In Canadian ice hockey, junior league players are selected based on skill, motor coordination, physical maturity, and other individual merit criteria.
The explanation is that in Canada, the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey is January 1, and the players who are born in the first months of the year are older by 0—11 months, which at the preadolescent age of selection nine or ten manifests into an important physical advantage. The selected players are exposed to higher levels of coaching, play more games, and have better teammates.
These factors make them actually become the best players, fulfilling the prophecy, while the real selection criterion was age. This specific form of self-fulfilling prophecy is very common and takes many forms. For example, the expectancy for a political party to act in a certain way—based on race , religion, gender and much more—can eventually lead the said party to imitate the stereotype.
In literature, self-fulfilling prophecies are often used as plot devices. They have been used in stories for millennia, but have gained a lot of popularity recently in the science fiction genre. They are typically used ironically, with the prophesied events coming to pass due to the actions of one trying to prevent the prophecy a recent example would be the life of Anakin Skywalker , the fictional Jedi-turned-Sith Lord in George Lucas ' Star Wars saga.
They are also sometimes used as comic relief. Many myths, legends and fairy tales make use of this motif as a central element of narratives that are designed to illustrate inexorable fate , fundamental to the Hellenic world-view. This may be the death of the powerful person; in more light-hearted versions, it is often the marriage of a poor or lower-class child to his own.
The events come about, nevertheless, as a result of the actions taken to prevent them: The best known example from Greek legend is that of Oedipus.
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Warned that his child would one day kill him, Laius abandoned his newborn son Oedipus to die, but Oedipus was found and raised by others, and thus in ignorance of his true origins. When he grew up, Oedipus was warned that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Believing his foster parents were his real parents, he left his home and travelled to Greece, eventually reaching the city where his biological parents lived. There, he got into a fight with a stranger, his real father, killed him and married his widow, Oedipus' real mother. In some, he accidentally spears his grandfather at a competition—an act that could have happened regardless of Acrisius ' response to the prophecy.
In other variants, his presence at the games is explained by his hearing of the prophecy, so that his attempt to evade it does cause the prophecy to be fulfilled. Greek historiography provides a famous variant: Assuming this meant he would succeed, he attacked—but the kingdom he destroyed was his own. People do not necessarily have to unsuccessfully avoid a prophecy in order for the prophecy to be self-fulfilling.
For example, when it was predicted that Zeus would overthrow his father, Cronos , and usurp his throne as King of the Gods, he actively waged war against him in a direct attempt to fulfill this prophecy. This makes the prophecy a self-fulfilling one because it was the prophecy itself that gave Zeus the inspiration to do it in the first place. The story of Romulus and Remus is another example. According to legend, a man overthrew his brother, the king. He then ordered that his two nephews, Romulus and Remus, be drowned, fearing that they would someday kill him like he did to his brother.
The boys were placed in a basket and thrown in the Tiber River. A wolf found the babies and she raised them. Later, a shepherd found the twins and named them Romulus and Remus. As teenagers, they found out who they were. They killed their uncle, fulfilling the prophecy. Another example of a self-fulfilling prophecy is detailed by the Greek historian Herodotus in his account of Cyrus the Great 's life. In this account, Astyages had two prophetic dreams. Both dreams involved something particular in the first dream, a flood, while in the second dream, a fruit bearing vine emerging from his daughter Mandane's pelvis and covering the entirety of Asia.
After consulting the Magi, he was informed that the dreams foreshadowed the birth of a child who would eventually rule in his place. Terrified by the prophecies, Astyages summoned Harpagus and commanded him to kill the child after it's born. Harpagus, however, was reluctant to kill the child and so assigned the task to one of Astyages' cowherds. The cowherd likewise hesitated and so he and his wife devised a plan to expose their own child, that was born dead, to a desolate place in the mountains while raising the other child as their own.
The child was afterwards named Cyrus. One day, when Cyrus was 10 years old, an incident with one of the children he was playing with brought him before king Astyages to give account for his actions. While listening to Cyrus' words, Astyages became suspicious that Cyrus could be the child he wanted to kill.
After pressuring his cowherd to relay to him everything about the child, the cowherd finally revealed everything about how he happened upon the child and how he decided to raise him as his own. Astyages, angered with Harpagus summoned him as well and Harpagus likewise revealed the truth. In revenge, the king killed Harpagus' son and later made this act known to Harpagus. However, he spared Cyrus' life as the magi, attempting to further clarify the prophecy to him, accidentally misinterpreted it and thus saved Cyrus. After some time Harpagus, possibly driven by revenge, took advantage of Cyrus' prosperous growth and Astyages' misdeeds to persuade him to revolt against Astyages.
His efforts eventually proved successful as Cyrus became king and Astyages was imprisoned. A variation of the self-fulfilling prophecy is the self-fulfilling dream, which dates back to medieval Arabic literature. Several tales in the One Thousand and One Nights , also known as the Arabian Nights , use this device to foreshadow what is going to happen, as a special form of literary prolepsis.
A notable example is " The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again Through a Dream ", in which a man is told in his dream to leave his native city of Baghdad and travel to Cairo , where he will discover the whereabouts of some hidden treasure. The man travels there and experiences misfortune after losing belief in the prophecy, ending up in jail, where he tells his dream to a police officer.
The officer mocks the idea of foreboding dreams and tells the protagonist that he himself had a dream about a house with a courtyard and fountain in Baghdad where treasure is buried under the fountain. The man recognizes the place as his own house and, after he is released from jail, he returns home and digs up the treasure. In other words, the foreboding dream not only predicted the future, but the dream was the cause of its prediction coming true. A variant of this story later appears in English folklore as the " Pedlar of Swaffham ". Another variation of the self-fulfilling prophecy can be seen in " The Tale of Attaf ", where Harun al-Rashid consults his library the House of Wisdom , reads a random book, "falls to laughing and weeping and dismisses the faithful vizier " Ja'far ibn Yahya from sight.
Ja'far, "disturbed and upset flees Baghdad and plunges into a series of adventures in Damascus , involving Attaf and the woman whom Attaf eventually marries. In other words, it was Harun's reading of the book that provoked the adventures described in the book to take place. This is an early example of reverse causality. In the 14th century, a version of this tale also appears in the Gesta Romanorum and Giovanni Boccaccio 's The Decameron.
The following evening, an armed schooner was lying at anchor in the roadstead of Buffalo, at the southern extremity of Lake Erie, and within a mile of the American shore.
It was past midnight? Two men only were visible upon the after deck; the one lay reclining upon an arm chest, muffled np in a dread-nought pea jacket, the other paced up and down hurriedly, and with an air of deep pre-occupation. At intervals he would stop and lean over the gang-way, apparently endeavouring to pierce through the fog and catch a glimpse of the adjacent shore, and, on these occasions, a profound sigh would burst from his chest.
Then again he would resume his rapid walk, with the air of one who has resolved to conquer a weakness, and substitute determination in its stead. Altogether his manner was that of a man ill at ease from his own thoughts. Our friends being all landed, there can be nothing further to detain us here, we will therefore make the best of our way back to Amherslburg in the morning. Paperback - Trade Pages: Review This Product No reviews yet - be the first to create one!
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