From Merton's "The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy," The Antioch Review 8:2 (Summer 1948), 193-210:
The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true. The specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning…. (195)
[P]ublic definitions of a situation (prophecies or predictions) become an integral part of the situation and thus affect subsequent developments. This is peculiar to human affairs. It is not found in the world of nature…. (195)
The self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby fears are translated into reality, operates only in the absence of deliberate institutional controls. And it is only with the rejection of social fatalism implied in the notion of unchangeable human nature that the tragic circle of fear, social disaster, reinforced fear can be broken. (210)
Another interesting element in this article: Merton presents a scenario of a bank failure as self-fulfilling prophecy that reveals his assumptions about who bankers were back in the day. "It is the year 1932. The Last National Bank is a flourishing institution…. Cartwright Millingville has ample reason to be proud of the banking institution over which he preside."