Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 27 October 2021

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

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.