Pygmalion effect and appreciative inquiry

Do you know the origin of the Pygmalion effect? Do you know the importance it has in education and psychology? Here we tell you everything about this concept.

child care

15 October 2019

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What is the Pygmalion effect?

The Pygmalion effect is what is known as the influence one person has on another, based on the image or belief they have about them. Therefore, the Pygmalion effect can have both positive and negative effects on the people it influences. 

This means that, if someone values, encourages or considers that a person is capable of achieving certain objectives, they will contribute to generating what is known in psychology as positive beliefs about this person which will enable them to reach objectives and increase their performance. By contrast, if their abilities are not valued and they don’t trust a person, it negatively contributes to this person’s self-esteem and they will never be able to reach their objectives.

Appreciative inquiry

Along the same lines as the Pygmalion effect, we can talk about the concept of “Appreciative inquiry”. This goes a step further since it delves into the importance of the attitude we have towards our children, how our verbal and non-verbal language influences their development.  Hence the importance of conveying to children that we value them and that we trust them to achieve their goals. To trust and motivate is the key. But motivating doesn’t mean concentrating on the negative, on the contrary, we should use positive language which is what will boost our children to become everything they can be.

To do this, it is very important to observe and listen to our children.  We should stop and ask ourselves why they do one activity or another, if they really like what they are doing, or they are investing time in something that they are simply doing because we've imposed it on them.  In addition, we should give them space so they can express themselves or feel, without prejudices and respecting their ideas.


The Pygmalion effect in education

This effect has been proven in classrooms, in reference to the influence that teachers have over their pupils. Their performance and, consequently, their success, in many cases, is conditioned by the expectations that each teacher places on the pupil. Ultimately, the Pygmalion effect can generate changes in the attitude of the person to achieve what they want, this is why it's important to be generators of positive beliefs towards others.

Mirada apreciativa y efecto Pigmalión


4 Tips to boost appreciative inquiry about your children and your family:

1. Discover: think about those moments when things have gone well for them, identify what your child likes most, remember a time together when you've had fun. Now think, what have you done to contribute to this moment of your child's development?

2. Desire: think about the future... What would you like your relationship with your children to be like? What do you dream about? How do you want them to remember you?


3. Design: based on the identified resources and what you enjoy, prioritise which aspects of yourself you are going to boost to improve the relationship with your child. What are you going to continue doing and what is worth changing?

4. Put into practice: it’s time to act. Think about how you are going to do what you thought about. Make a list of specific actions, for example: play a little more each day, arrive home earlier, stop saying negative words to them, read with them, etc... So that it is easier to carry them out.  


Pygmalion and Galatea

According to mythology, Pygmalion, the famous king of Cyprus, was a wonderful sculptor. He was so dedicated to his profession that he didn’t have time for love. But, one day he created a sculpture of a woman in white ivory with unrivalled beauty. He sculpted every feature and the shapes with a great deal of detail and care. When he finished, he dressed her with the best clothes and jewellery. He called her Galatea and each night he would go to see her and would imagine what kind of woman she would be in real life.

At a party in honour of Goddess Aphrodite, Pygmalion took to his knees and begged her to bring his work to life. When he returned to the workshop, he kissed her lips, like he did every night. When he did so, Galatea came alive and fell in love with her creator, they got married and lived happily ever after.

‘Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it'll live its whole life believing it’s stupid’ - Albert Einstein