EXPERIENCES ILLUSTRATING OBSERVER EFFECTS


a. I read an article about opinion polls. The author claimed that such polls not only predicted the outcome of the last U.S. presidential election but influenced that election by predicting its outcome.

b. I read Ken Kesey's book One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Chief Broom in his only speech points out that he became a deaf-mute because he was not expected to hear or say anything.

c. A friend described to me the elaborate procedure by which the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, is chosen as a young boy. I thought that possibly the most important factor was that a person treated as a leader from a young age will indeed become a leader.

d. I read in a newspaper the prediction by an important official of the International Monetary Fund that the pound would go down to $1.50 U.S. In the newspaper the next day, I read that the pound had dropped to $1.50 U.S.

e. I stumbled across the following statement while reading Colin Wilson's autobiography, Journey to a Beginning: "Certain army officers, sons of rich or titled men, seemed to give orders without effort, and were obeyed because they took it for granted that they would be obeyed."

f. I saw the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. In the boat-outing scene, as each inmate was addressed as "Doctor" each dull face was momentarily transformed to bright.

g. I received a review of an early draft of my book The Psychology of Teaching. The reviewer argued that the level of discourse was too high for education majors.

h. A friend described a high school reunion 20 years after graduation. The class clown, who had become a distinguished executive, reverted to class clown at the reunion.

i. I read a review of the movie Network, in which the reviewer argued that the media not only report news but create it.

j. I had the following conversation:

"Mary is very unhappy."
"That's peculiar. She's always happy when she's with me."
"That's because she's with you. She's happy when she's with you, but she's often unhappy when she's not with you.
"I've never been with her when she's not with me."
Mary later pointed out that I expect her to be happy and thus force her always to present her positive side to me.

k. Most of these experiences occurred while I was working on the chapter on the self-fulfilling prophecy.