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December 27, 2008 / C H Thompson

Stereotyping, halo effect, labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy

xfactor1708_700x432When you meet someone for the first time I expect you assess what they’re wearing, how they speak and their general mannerisms in order to make your mind up about them. You’re effectively stereotyping them in the way they dress and speak etc.

It might surprise you to know that teachers do this. Teachers constantly judge and classify pupils as being bright, lazy, troublemakers, hardworking etc. This process of stereotyping a pupil from non-academic information can produce a ‘halo-effect’. The halo effect is when a pupil is stereotyped from first impressions as being good/bad or thick/bright. These impressions can shape future pupil teacher relations.

labellingSociologists like Hargreaves found teachers initially evaluate pupils on a whole raft of non academic factors which label a student in a particular way. The problem is, once you’ve been labelled as either good or bad it’s hard to ‘peel off’ that label. The factors which create a label are as follows:

Does stereotyping affect attainment? Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) found that it does. They found that when a randomly chosen group of school children were told by their teacher they were bright and would make good progress they did when compared to a group of children of similar ability. This showed labelling inaction. Rosenthal and Jacobson found if a student was given a positive label they acted that label out and visa versa. When a student acts out a label they’ve been given it’s known as the self-fulfilling prophecy.

The following presentation shows gives a step-by-step guide to what Rosenthal and Jacobson discovered about how the self-fulfilling prophecy occurs:


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Leave a Comment
  1. DoubleN / Mar 21 2015 9:24 pm

    Hello, I wanted to know that why teachers label working class students as thick or dumb ? Is it because of their parents class ? Pls give me some evidence as well .
    Thank you .

    • C H Thompson / Mar 23 2015 7:38 pm

      Hi – Bourdieu points out schools are culturally middle-class insitutions, because of this Becker found teachers stereotypical image of an ideal pupil was based on middle-class attributes meaning the ideal pupil was more likely to be middle-class while the working-class pupil was more susceptible to being negatively labelled 🙂


  1. Factors inside school (the interactionist perspective) and attainment « Sociology at Twynham School

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