Merten, R.K. (1948). The self-fulfilling prophecy. Antioch Review, 8, 193-210.

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Merton argues that self-fulfilling prophecies exist such that a false definition of a situation evokes new behaviors that make the originally false definition become true. Merton puts forth the classic example of a healthy bank about which false rumors of insolvency and impending bankrupty begin to circulate. Bank customers frightened by the false rumors rush to the bank in order to withdraw their money, resulting in insolvency and bankruptcy for which there was no other cause.

Merton also explains racial tension and prejudice in the United States as largely the result of self-fulfilling prophecies. Minority "out-groups" are considered incompetent members of society and as a result are allocated less resources and opportunities. As a result these minority groups do not have access to the resources and opportunities necessary to be a competent member of society.

The theory of the sell-fulfilling prophecy has become so widely accepted that it is now a common part of everyday language. The concept has directly and indirectly influenced numerous theories within social science ranging from cognitive dissonance to affirmative action.


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