A professor was lecturing about communism. The students insisted that communism worked since no one would be poor and no one would be rich – a great equalizer. To show the students whether communism worked or not, the professor designed a social experiment. The professor announced to the class that all grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade.
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who had studied hard were upset while the students who had studied very little were happy.
But when the second test came, the students who had studied little studied even less and the ones who had studied hard before decided that since they could not make an A (even if they got 100%, the bottom half of the class would pull the average down), they also studied less. The second test average was a D.
No one was happy. By the third test, the class average had fallen to an F. Now no one was rich, but everyone was equally “poor”.
Communism ultimately fails because it removes one of the major driving forces of economies – incentive. Money is a key (but not the only) incentive that motivates people to work harder as they are rewarded with a better quality of life. But when private wealth is abolished and wealthy is “equally” (note that it is not “equitably”) split among the population, there is no longer motivation to try harder. Because no one wants to work for the benefit of strangers (due to psychological phenomena such as responsibility splitting and the monkeysphere), the economy does not grow and everyone becomes poor.
Communism essentially relies on the goodwill of the people while disregarding all realistic factors of economic growth. It is an extreme ideal that has failed in every instance in history. The only times communism works is in a small society setting such as a small village or tribe where there are less than 150 people (within the monkeysphere, thus people actually care about all of the others). The idea behind it is admirable – that all human beings have equal rights to a certain quality of life. However, it disregards the most important factor of economics; that resources are scarce and we cannot fulfil the infinite needs of everyone. Monetary incentives at least allow us to seek out these resources ourselves, with market economies rewarding such behaviour with money.
Thus, we should not focus on “equality”, which means that everyone should receive the “same”, but “equity”, which means that everyone should receive a “fair share” according to how much they have worked and contributed to the society.
In 1968, Robert Rosenthal, a social psychology professor at Harvard University, and Lenore Jacobson, a primary school principal with 20 years experience, performed a spontaneous intelligence test on a primary school in San Francisco then randomly chose 20% of the students in one class. They then gave a list of the names of those students to the teachers and convinced them that they were “students with a high possibility of improving their intelligence and career success”. Eight months later, they performed the same intelligence test and found that the students on that list performed significantly better than other students on average. Not only that, but the score for the whole school was pulled up by those students. The most important factor was the expectations and encouragement from the teachers. This study proved that the expectations a teacher places on their students has a real effect on improving their grades.
The Pygmalion effect can be summarised as the phenomenon when a person’s efficiency or results improve due to the expectations and interests of another person.
The eponymous story is from Greek mythologies, regarding a sculptor named Pygmalion. After seeing many women be so immoral and vulgar, he could not see beauty in any women anymore. This led him to sculpt the most beautiful woman out of ivory instead. After finishing his sculpture, he gazed upon its face and instantly fell head over heels for it. Every day Pygmalion would caress, stroke and truly love “her”. However, being a statue it could not return his love and he grew sadder and sadder. He went to the Temple of Aphrodite and begged her to help him achieve his true love. Upon returning home, he kissed and touched the sculpture like any other day. And lo and behold, every part of the sculpture his hands touched turned from hard ivory to soft, clear skin and the sculpture eventually turned into a gorgeous lady. Thus, thanks to Aphrodite’s grace the two could live happily ever after in love.
The Pygmalion effect is extremely useful in everyday life. When parents and teachers believe that a child has talent, they spend more effort trying to grow that talent and the child ends up more successful. The simple task of showing interest to the child promotes optimism and the child works harder to meet those expectations. The child did not receive any extra compliments or rewards but their efficiency goes up regardless, thanks to their parents’ and teachers’ beliefs.
Similarly, when a boss shows passion towards and has great expectations of an employee, their efficiency will go up. The Pygmalion effect is particularly powerful in relationships, where if the two love each other and are good to each other, their love will naturally deepen and they will become happier.
Unfortunately, people have a tendency to underestimate the power of love and are unable to utilise this great effect. Therefore, children and employees are often plagued by the golem effect (the phenomenon of low expectations causing a fall in efficiency) instead.