Pygmalion and Quantum Theory: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change
Eleni Armaou, Student Oriented Services (SOS) and Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Coordinator
Metropolitan School of Frankfurt
It is an axiom in Human Psychology, a known fact, albeit not easily perceptible, an unwritten law, which you study the minute you step your feet into a university amphitheatre of a Psychology faculty: your perception informs the way you look at things, defines their meaning and subsequently shapes your actions or reactions.
As an educator I found self-observation enlightening and I started observing myself: my mood, my underlying assumptions, my fears and hopes and how they can fundamentally change my teaching practice during the instructional moment. If I am happy, I see happiness everywhere, if I am hopeful, I recognise it in the eyes of students, if I strive for change and innovation, they will follow suit. It is as if everyone feeds off each other’s mood, and yet this tiny grain of truth is usually overlooked, especially in moments of crisis. How does this manifestation of rule become universal?
On a larger scale, this of the universe, it has long been ( much longer than we think) theorised that the atoms do not possibly have an infinite and given state but rather are in a constant status of Superposition, therefore creating infinite versions of themselves and subsequently of reality. Multiple versions of reality means, essentially, that there is a multiverse.
And of course, the observer’s application of observation, an act, changes the observed object. This theory echoes the theory of Shroedinger’s cat ( the cat is both alive and dead in the box) as well as similar theories in Psychology, Humanities and of course Arts.
Moving away from subatomic and macroscopic systems, and researching in the field of Educational Studies, we first encounter aspects of the above mentioned theory in the famous book by R. Rosenthal Pygmalion in the Classroom (1968). In his introduction, Rosenthal makes a special reference to Bernard Shaw’s (1913) play by providing a fragment of the protagonist’s Eliza Doolittle monologue:
…You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up ( the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a girl is not how she behaves but how she is treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know that I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.
In a series of experiments which Rosenthal mentions in his book, the mechanism of self-fulfilling prophecy is apparent and in play with all factors in human relationships, but particularly, in the dual relationship of learner-educators and that, if our expectation is that a learner of a given intelligence ( term is outdated, this comes from a 1968 book) will not respond creatively to a task which confronts him, and especially if we make this expectation known to the learner, the probability is that he will respond creatively is very much reduced.
This is a huge life ( and teaching ) lesson for teachers: what you think is what you will create.
- Rosenthal, R., Jacobson, L. Pygmalion in the classroom. Urban Rev 3, 16–20 (1968).
What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eleni Armaou studied Psychology, Pedagogy and Philosophy ( major in Educational Psychology) and holds a MA in Special Educational Needs from the University of Leeds, in the UK. She has worked in IB Schools in Istanbul, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt and is now the SOS and ALN Coordinator at the Metropolitan School of Frankfurt.
Eleni is passionate about AI, Robotics, Space Travel, Quantum Physics as well as Human Psychology, Inclusive Education, Leadership and Management Studies, Negotiation Skills, and Conflict Resolution.
She is a Member of ECIS SEN/Learning Support SIG.
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