Pig 1: Self-fulfilling Psychiatry.

According to Wikipedia… a self-fulfilling prophecy is:

…a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself…

Fine. this makes sense to me, but it is important to make clear that because a self-fulfilling prophecy creates it’s own prophetic ‘truth’ that it is easiest to start from the assumption that the underlying piece of knowledge that even allows a self-fulfilling prophecy to exist is… ‘false’.

The golden rules:

  1. a ‘perceiver’ has an expectation of a ‘target’
  2. the ‘perceiver’ behaves in ways that elicit their expectations
  3. the ‘target’ elicits… expected behaviour (for the ‘perceiver’)
  4. the ‘perceiver’ then simply ‘sees’ the expected behaviour.

There are examples of these self-fulfilling prophecies, simple ones too (without getting bogged down in the examples from literature which are all tied up in irony and the like and to my mind, appear to be a little less useful in the ‘real’ world).

Imagine that you get a new teacher, you really like them and believe that under their instruction you will do better (perceiver expectations). You work harder to this end (perceiver’s eliciting behaviour). The teacher does what a teacher does and teaches the whole class (the target just behaves), and well, what do you know… you do better (you see what you expected to see).

Now imagine… and apply that same process to you feeling some kind of mental unrest* and a psychiatrist**… that person who has the capacity to help your mental unrest by employing a variety of treatments.

Basically… you don’t feel ‘right’… you imagine and expect a ‘doctor’ to help… behave in ways to reify your ‘symptoms’ to ensure the help you ‘need’… the psychiatrist treats you… you ‘see’ your illness..!!

And… there you go..!! Job done..!!


*perhaps a period of depression, anxiety and for a variety of reasons… loss, cash flow… all perfectly acceptable responses to perfectly natural events.

**granted, you might not immediately think of going to a psychiatrist but you can be pretty sure, if your GP will if your ‘symptoms’ involve any kind of risk to yourself or someone else..