Learnings Mental Models

Unraveling the Golem Effect: Understanding the Impact of Expectations on Decision-Making


The Golem Effect, a fascinating mental model rooted in human psychology, sheds light on the profound influence that expectations can have on our decision-making processes. By exploring this concept and its prevalence in our day-to-day lives, we gain valuable insights into how our beliefs about others can shape their behavior and outcomes. Understanding the Golem Effect equips us with the tools to make more objective decisions and avoid the pitfalls of biased thinking.

Defining the Golem Effect

The Golem Effect, also known as the negative Pygmalion effect, refers to the phenomenon where low expectations placed upon an individual or a group result in reduced performance or diminished potential. In other words, when we perceive someone as less capable or competent, they may internalize those expectations and fulfill them, ultimately hindering their true abilities and potential. This effect can manifest in various contexts, from personal interactions to workplace dynamics and even public policy-making.

Examples of the Golem Effect

  1. Personal Life Decisions: Consider a parent who consistently underestimates their child’s academic abilities based on their past performance. The child, internalizing these low expectations, may develop a belief that they are not academically capable. As a result, they may subconsciously sabotage their own learning efforts, ultimately hindering their academic growth.
  2. Business Scenarios: In a workplace environment, a supervisor who holds a negative perception of an employee’s potential may provide limited opportunities for growth and advancement. The employee, influenced by these low expectations, may become demotivated and disengaged, leading to underperformance and unrealized potential.
  3. Public Policy-Making: The Golem Effect can also be observed in the context of public policy. When policymakers hold biased views or stereotypes about certain communities or social groups, they may allocate fewer resources or provide limited support, perpetuating the cycle of disadvantage and hindering the growth and development of those communities.

Mental Biases and Psychological Underpinnings

Several mental biases contribute to the Golem Effect. Confirmation bias, for example, leads individuals to seek evidence that supports their preconceived notions or negative expectations about others, while disregarding contradictory information. Stereotyping and implicit bias also play a significant role by shaping our perceptions and expectations of others based on superficial characteristics such as gender, race, or socio-economic status.

The psychological underpinnings of the Golem Effect are intertwined with self-fulfilling prophecies and social identity theory. When individuals internalize negative expectations, it can influence their self-perception and identity, ultimately affecting their behavior and performance. Moreover, the Golem Effect is reinforced by social dynamics and interactions, as others may treat individuals based on these low expectations, creating a cycle of diminished opportunities and outcomes.

Avoiding the Golem Effect

  1. Self-Reflection and Awareness: The first step in avoiding the Golem Effect is recognizing our own biases and the potential impact they can have on our expectations of others. Engaging in self-reflection and cultivating awareness allows us to challenge our assumptions and approach decision-making with a more objective mindset.
  2. Providing Opportunities and Support: Instead of assuming the worst in others, it is important to provide equal opportunities and support for growth and development. Encouraging individuals to reach their full potential, regardless of initial expectations, can lead to remarkable achievements and a more inclusive and equitable environment.
  3. Embrace Diversity and Inclusion: Creating an environment that embraces diversity and inclusion is vital in mitigating the Golem Effect. By valuing different perspectives and breaking down stereotypes, we foster an atmosphere where individuals are recognized and appreciated for their unique abilities and contributions.


The Golem Effect serves as a powerful reminder of the impact that our expectations can have on others. By understanding this mental model and the biases that contribute to it, we can make more informed decisions and create a more inclusive and supportive environment. Cultivating self-awareness, providing opportunities for growth, and embracing diversity are crucial steps in avoiding the Golem Effect and unlocking the true potential of individuals and groups. Through active avoidance of this mental trap, we can foster a more equitable and empowering society.

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