The Accumulating Effects of Shared Expectations



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This research examined whether self-fulfilling prophecies and perceptual confirmation effects accumulated across people. Trios of same-sex participants, each consisting of two interviewers and one target, were randomly assigned to one of three conditions that served to manipulate interviewers' expectations (i.e., non-hostile vs. hostile) and the similarity of their expectations (i.e., similar vs. dissimilar) for targets. Each trio participated in an interaction in which interviewers asked targets questions. Targets' hostility during the interaction and interviewers' impressions of targets' hostility following the interaction served as the primary dependent variables. Results indicated that perceptual confirmation effects accumulated across interviewers. Even though targets' behavior during the interaction did not differ across conditions, interviewers nonetheless judged targets as more hostile when both interviewers expected targets to be hostile than when only one did. The authors discuss these findings in terms of the potential implications for those who have multiple inaccurate and unfavorable expectations held about them.