Interpreting Interpersonal Behavior: The Effects of Expectancies

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Science  03 Oct 1986:
Vol. 234, Issue 4772, pp. 41-46
DOI: 10.1126/science.234.4772.41


Attempts to understand the personal characteristics of others, in interactions with them, are complicated by the fact that one tends to find what one expects. This happens not only because processing of information is selective, but also because expectancies cause one to act in ways that elicit behavior interpretable as confirming those expectancies, even when the expectancies might have been mistaken. Studies provide ample evidence of such self-fulfilling prophecies in social interaction and are beginning to spell out the crucial steps in the process for confirming expectancies. Such studies help link the psychology of first impressions to the psychology of long-term relationships by showing how expectancies are sustained or modified through behavioral sequences that are partially determined by initial expectancies.