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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Gender

The term self-fulfilling prophecy was coined by 20th-century sociologist Robert K. Merton. It is defined as either a negative or a positive belief or expectation that affects a person’s (or a group’s) actions in a way that leads to the fulfillment of those expectations. That is, it consists of a process whereby a belief or expectation, whether correct or incorrect, affects the outcome of a group’s or a person’s behavior. A girl, for example, expects that she will do poorly in math, and therefore, she may act in ways (skipping classes, little preparation) that lead, in turn, to a low grade in math.

In this entry, the role of expectations in the creation of self-fulfilling prophecies in gender-related outcomes is summarized. Cases of self-fulfilling prophecies are ...

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