Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Jennifer M. Koleser
Sociologist Robert Merton coined the term self-fulfilling prophecy in 1949 in Social Theory and Social Structure as “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true.” In other words, a person's expectations about a situation eventually lead that person to behave in ways that confirm the expectations. Merton illustrated his concept with the example of the fictional bank of Cartwright Millingville. Although the bank is financially secure, its assets are invested in numerous enterprises. When a large number of depositors all show up at once wanting their money, a rumor spreads that the bank is in trouble. Within hours, so many panicked depositors withdraw their Psychologists ...