Category Archives: News and Views

Do our expectations affect the results? The surprising research findings.

The question sounds absurd: Can people’s expectations alter what we can do physically? Specifically, can people’s expectations change whether a blind person can see?

On a recent edition of the podcast “This American Life”, Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller, hosts of the new program “Invisibilia”, revealed the results of their research into the subject and those questions. (

The episode is titled “Batman”, not because it has anything to do with the comic crime fighter, but because the person they investigate mimics a bat’s use of sonar to “see” where he is going.  Batman in this case study is Daniel Kish, blind from childhood. He had his eyeballs removed due to cancer, so his new ones are prosthetic. He has no hope of vision. Or does he?

What Kish does is use clicks with his tongue as a way of understanding what is around him. This is called echolocation. The tongue clicks bounce off of things in his environment, resulting in a sonic representation of what’s around him. I recommend you listen to the podcast. His abilities will blow your mind.

So what does this have to do with expectations? Well, let me back up to their initial interview with research psychologist Bob Rosenthal. He had a lab full of ordinary rats collected for experimentation. He arbitrarily marked some rats as super intelligent, and some as incredibly stupid. Then he watched to see how the treatment each was given affected the results of the tests they were used in. Listen to what Alix Spiegel says:

“So what Bob figured out was that the expectations that the experimenters carried in their heads subtly changed the way that the experimenters touched the rats, and that changed the way that the rats behaved. So when the experimenters thought that the rats were really smart, they felt more warmly towards the rats and so they touched them more gently.”

She then relates studies showing the effect on human subjects:

Research has shown that a teacher’s expectations can raise or lower a student’s IQ score, that a mother’s expectations influences the drinking behavior of her middle schooler, that military trainers’ expectations can literally make a soldier run faster or slower. So my question was, how far does this go?

And this led them to Daniel Kish. His experience has not only enabled him to do what most of us would consider is impossible for the blind (i.e., riding a bike! In traffic!) It has resulted in him teaching young children to be independent. His story of teaching a ten-year old boy to climb a sixty foot tree is worth the whole show.

Do our expectations influence how we act? How we expect others to act?

Have a listen to the podcast and think about it. Then share your feedback with me here at

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2015

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press –


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Filed under General Interest, Home and Family, News and Views, Religion and Spirituality

Target Canada closing – the result of mismanaged expectations.

Are you over the shock yet?

You know what I’m talking about. Target Canada announced early this morning they were closing all 133 Canadian locations and pulling out – lock, stock and barrel. After less than two years! What seemed a sure thing has quickly crumbled to the point of being what is described as “an epic failure.” It is sure to be one that will be studied in marketing and merchandising courses for years to come.target1

So, what happened? I’m not qualified to give an expert view from either the marketing or consumer side, but as far as expectations go, it is a fairly simple analysis. They did not meet expectations. Not those of the company, nor those of the consumer. They quite simply did not manage the expectations set before them.

Those interviewed outside stores today repeated the critique that the service and satisfaction that was delivered in U.S. stores, and experienced in cross-border shopping, never materialized. Experts in the field of consumer merchandising noted that their price point consistently paled beside WalMart’s. And their stores were frequently lacking in products, with empty shelves promising to be refilled, but left vacant for weeks. The customers just moved on to the stores that had the stuff they were looking for.

Perhaps the most damning comment came from an insider who sought to remain anonymous in the interview he gave today. He said that Target, who largely took over Zellers stores, were given free access to that company’s marketing figures. But they ignored them, thinking they were irrelevant to what they were about to do. This was seen as both arrogant and foolish. It ultimately led to expectations that were entirely unrealistic for bringing Target into a whole different culture. And this is the result.

I said it in my last blogpost, and I repeat it now with this stark example before us:

Knowing this material in itself is never enough. We still have to apply it!

I will let those experts in the Canadian economy and the store scene speak with their great knowledge and facts and figures. It will be necessary analysis. But at the end of the day, the real reason is there for us to see. They mismanaged their expectations, and those of their customers. What a shame.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2015

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press –





Filed under Business and Organizations, General Interest, Leadership, News and Views

Analyzing my expectations means determining how realistic they are.

In my last blog, we looked at the first action in managing expectations, which was realizing what they are. This is done by asking the question: What do I (or what do we) expect? It is a necessary beginning, but it really only sets the stage for what comes next; analyzing if our expectations are realistic.

The question I am asked the most often is: “How do I know if my expectations are realistic?” The fact of the matter is that no one but you can make that analysis. In my book, What do you expect?, I have explained the three areas where most of our expectations come from. These are our past, including our experiences, family traditions, ethnic customs and so on. Second, they come from our desires, the way we want things to work out. And thirdly, they come from listening to what others say, especially those we trust or those who have an influence in our lives.

While one or more of these is usually at the root of what we expect, none of them can guarantee we will get what we expect. Why is that? Simply put, it is because there is no agreement given by anyone to us which gives us that guarantee. Now we realize that even if there is a guarantee, the expectation still may not come to pass. The friend who promises to meet us at noon may be late, the parcel may not be delivered that day, our car may not be repaired at the time promised. Stuff happens. But when we are analyzing how realistic our expectations are, we trust there is a far greater chance of it happening if there is an agreement behind the expectations.

Take a few minutes and analyze something you are expecting. Ask the question, “Why am I expecting this?” Is it because it has always happened that way, or because that’s what I hope will happen? Or because someone said it might happen?  How realistic is your expectation?

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press.

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December 1, 2014 · 9:23 am

Managing our expectations begins with realizing what they are.


I compare realizing our expectations to wearing eyeglasses. Most of the time I’m unaware I’m wearing my glasses. (Unless they are as cloudy and in need of cleaning as they are right now!) They are simply the way I see the world. It’s the same with my expectations. I may not be aware of them, but they are the filter through which I watch my world.

In order to manage our expectations, we need to realize exactly what they are.  How do we do that?

  • We realize our expectations by taking the time to think carefully about what it is we want.
  • We realize our expectations by using anger as our “expectation alarm”, a signal that tells us we are upset about something. We need to stop and recognize what we are angry about and exactly what we are not getting that we want.
  • We realize our expectations by talking the matter out with someone who can help us get to the root of what those expectations are. This might be the person we are expecting something from. It might be a friend who knows us well. It may be a counsellor who is skilled at helping us uncover what it is we really want.
  • We realize our expectations by being honest – with ourselves and with others – about what it is we truly desire.

While we may assume realizing our expectations is a simple and obvious process, this may not be the case. It can be difficult to be that specific and open about what we want. To be so specific may mean we admit something about ourselves we want to keep private. To be so open may be embarrassing to us.

In practice, it is not always easy to fulfill this first action of our process. But if we are to manage our expectations in a healthy and effective way, it is a very necessary step to take.

Question: What am I currently expecting that is affecting a relationship I am in? How specific can I be about that expectation? Am I willing to share that expectation with this other person?

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press.

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Filed under Business and Organizations, General Interest, Home and Family, Leadership, News and Views, Religion and Spirituality