Expectation (epistemic)

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This article is about the concept of expectation as a thought or belief. For expectation in the context of probability theory and statistics, see expected value.
"Surely he will come?". Painting by Christen Dalsgaard. From the Hirschsprung Collection, Denmark.

In the case of uncertainty, expectation is what is considered the most likely to happen. An expectation, which is a belief that is centered on the future, may or may not be realistic. A less advantageous result gives rise to the emotion of disappointment. If something happens that is not at all expected, it is a surprise. An expectation about the behavior or performance of another person, expressed to that person, may have the nature of a strong request, or an order.

Expectations of well-being[edit]

Richard Lazarus asserts that people become accustomed to positive or negative life experiences which lead to favorable or unfavorable expectations of their present and near-future circumstances. Lazarus notes the widely accepted philosophical principle that "happiness depends on the background psychological status of the person...and cannot be well predicted without reference to one's expectations."[1]

With regard to happiness or unhappiness, Lazarus notes that objective conditions of life are those of hardship and deprivation often make a positive assessment of their well-being," while "people who are objectively well off...often make a negative assessment of their well-being." Lazarus argues that "the most sensible explanation of this apparent paradox is that people...develop favorable or unfavorable expectations" that guide such assessments.[1]

Expectations impact on beliefs[edit]

Sociologist Robert K. Merton wrote that a person's expectation is directly linked to self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether or not such an expectation is truthful or not, has little or no effect on the outcome. If a person believes what they are told or convinces himself/herself of the fact, chances are this person will see the expectation to its inevitable conclusion. There is an inherent danger in this kind of labeling especially for the educator. Since children are easily convinced of certain tenets especially when told to them by an authority figure like a parent or teacher, they may believe whatever is taught to them even if what is taught has no factual basis. If the student or child were to act on false information, certain positive or negative unintended consequences could result. If overly positive or elevated expectations were used to describe or manipulate a person's self-image and execution falls short, the results could be a total reversal of that person's self-confidence. If thought of in terms of causality or cause and effect, the higher a person's expectation and the lower the execution, the higher the frustration level may become. This in turn could cause a total cessation of effort and motivate the person to quit.[citation needed]

Benefits of high expectations[edit]

There are myriad benefits of setting high expectations, especially in academic contexts. Setting high expectations for students starts a life time working toward getting better. High expectations make students work hard giving them a work ethic that will follow them through their whole lives.[2] On a more short term view of high expectations students feel pride in reaching an expectation that is set for them by the teacher. The pride they feel will help to boost their self-confidence.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lazarus, Richard (1991). Emotion and Adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506994-3. 
  2. ^ Ozturk, Mehmet. "Setting Realistically High Academic Standards and Expectations" (PDF). 

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