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I recall hearing a social cognition lecture a number of years ago in which the lecturer described a particular idea that centered around the role of self-fulfilling prophecies in relationships. For example, if I believe that x is a hostile jerk, I'll tend to treat them in a way that makes them more hostile. (A good example of a book that subscribes to this type of a view is Feeling Good Together by David Burns; I'm not sure if he subscribes to the exact theory that I'm trying to remember, though).

I'm pretty sure that there was a specific name for this, but I don't recall what it was.

Can someone help me identify which theory or term this is?

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting concept. The only thing that comes to mind is confirmation bias. You prefer to validate your beliefs, instead of getting a positive reaction. However this does not describe the inter-personal behavior that triggers the negative behavior in the other person. It only describes the motivation for it. $\endgroup$
    – Borut Flis
    Aug 19 at 6:37
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I believe what you might be referring to is the Pygmalion effect, an effect in social psychology where high expectations lead to improved performance in a given area: a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

An interesting idea, but one which has sparked a lot of criticism over the years. I won't go as far as saying it has been debunked, but you might want to have a look for yourself.

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