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date: 25 August 2019

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.

Keywords: self-fulfilling prophecies, analytical sociology, beliefs, social theory, social reality, Oedipus effect, bootstrapped induction, Barnesian performativity

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