- The Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology
- List of Figures
- List of Tables
- About the Contributors
- What is Analytical Sociology All About? An Introductory Essay
- Analytical Sociology and Theories of the Middle Range
- Social Dynamics from the Bottom Up: Agent-Based Models of Social Interaction
- Segregation Dynamics
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
- Social Influence: The Puzzling Nature of Success in Cultural Markets
- The Contagiousness of Divorce
- Collective Action
- Conditional Choice
- Network Dynamics
- Threshold Models of Social Influence
- Time and Scheduling
- Homophily and the Focused Organization of Ties
- Dominance Hierarchies
- Game Theory
- Analytic Ethnography
- Historical Sociology
- Name Index
- Subject Index
Abstract and Keywords
This article examines self-fulfilling prophecies and the conditions under which they are most likely to arise. The term ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ (SFP) was coined in 1948 by Robert K. Merton to describe ‘a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true’. SFP is a particular type of dynamic process and is also known as ‘Oedipus effect’, ‘bootstrapped induction’ and ‘Barnesian performativity’. It has been discerned in a variety of processes; for example, between social theory and social reality. This article begins by proposing an explicit definition of SFP, followed by the argument that analytical sociology must be both empirical and theoretical. A summary of methods for investigating SFP is followed by a review of systematic empirical evidence for selected phenomena. Finally, explanations are given for why self-fulfilling prophecies occur: why false or arbitrary beliefs are formed and why they are subsequently fulfilled.
Michael Biggs is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Oxford. He studied at Victoria University of Wellington and Harvard University. His research has focused (p. xv) on social movements and political protest, addressing two theoretical puzzles. One is the volatility of collective protest: why a mass movement can emerge suddenly, appear powerful, and yet collapse quickly. The second puzzle is the use of self-inflicted suffering for political ends, as with hunger strikes and, most dramatically, with protest by self-immolation.
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