Expected to Perform


We’ve all heard a variation of the phrase “If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it”.  But is there any truth to this statement, does having high expectations for yourself actually translate into a tangible level of higher success?  Having pressure to live up to expectations is something that I’m sure many of us experience, but does it actually cause us to do any better?  If we look at this as a study, the null hypothesis would be that expectations don’t change performance, and the alternative would be that they do.


In order to help eliminate confounding variables, I first wanted to get an idea of the general expectations that parents of different ethnicities have for their children.  I found this study by Christopher Spera that examined what sort of education parents of different ethnicities expected for their kids and what they were hoping for them to accomplish with those educations.  What they found was that parents of ethnic minorities have much higher aspirations for their childrens education, but caucasian parents had the same leevels of expectations for their children outside of academics.  They also studied how expectations affected the perception of success and found that parents who felt their children were doing well in school had higher goals for them in life.  This was also related to many other things like parents education levels, socio-economic status, and others.

Parental Education vs Expectation for Childrens Performance

Parental Education vs Expectation for Childrens Performance Source


For the purpose of this write-up, I am correlating self esteem with expectations because they have been found to be closely related.  In a study conducted regarding self esteem and performance, they found that having good school performance boosts your self esteem, which in turn boosted peoples expectations for themselves.  They believed that their opinions were more valuable and were more willing to make major decisions in their lives.  I interpret this data as students doing well causes them to put higher pressure on themselves to do even better, because they like the feeling of success. A study titled Cause or Effect? A Longitudinal Study of Immigrant Latino Parents’ Aspirations and Expectations, and Their Children’s School Performance ” showed that in general, parents with no expectations for their children forced them to work less hard an in turn their children performed worse.  However, they also discovered that this pressure doesn’t just have to come from a parent, it could come from a teacher, coach, or any authoritative figure in the students life.


I think from this data it’s safe to say that there is a correlation between expectations and performance, thus confirming the null hyphothesis.  However, I don’t think the definition of “expectation” is very clear cut.  This could be what your parents want from you, what you want from yourself, or what any figure of authority assumes you to be capable of.  I think this aligns with what I’ve experienced in my own life, up until 11th grade my parents always pushed me hard to do well in school, and then they stopped doing so and I noticed my performance starting to slip.  I think that without a push from someone else, or even yourself, to perform then you will have a tougher time doing so.

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