self-fulfilling and self-destroying prophecy

self-fulfilling and self-destroying prophecy

two ever present possibilities that accompany any attempts at social or sociological generalization and prediction. These may either be:
  1. spuriously ‘confirmed’merely as the outcome of their pronouncement, e.g. a stock exchange crash brought about by its expectation; or
  2. undermined, because on knowledge of these becoming available, people take action to prevent the outcome in question, e.g. uncongested roads at a predicted time of rush during a rail strike because people travel at other times to avoid the rush.

The occurrence of self-fulfilling and self-destroying predictions is an indication of VOLUNTARISM and choice in social behaviour (i.e. that it involves SOCIAL ACTION, which is purposive, in which events get monitored, is capable of reacting to feedback, etc.). Sometimes the fact that this happens is erected into a general principle (sic) that significant sociological generalizations, sociological laws, etc. are not possible in sociology or the social sciences. However, that social participants often have the capacity to change their actions does not mean that they always have this capacity, e.g. 'social structural’ forces may intervene (see also STRUCTURE AND AGENCY). Thus all possibility of successful, non-spurious sociological generalizations is not ruled out by the existence of self-fulfilling and self-destroying hypotheses. See also HISTORICAL GENERALIZATIONS, FREE WILL.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000