The Surprising Overlaps between the Law of Attraction and Behavioural Science

The central tenet of the Law of Attraction (LOA) is that your thoughts create your reality. Simple, but immensely attractive. Attractive enough to form the basis for The Secret, a book and film that went on to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. Attractive enough to spawn an entire industry of self-help gurus who became rich by teaching others how to become rich (a genius business model, by the way).

As with anything that claims to be The Answer, it wouldn’t hurt to approach LOA with the proverbial pinch of salt. But I’m not here to debunk it. Rather, I want to point out a very interesting overlap between LOA and behavioural science.

Your thoughts manifest your reality” is basically confirmation bias (with a sprinkle of motivational magic dust).

Confirmation bias is basically the tendency to search for and focus on information that confirms our preconceptions. We tend to look for data aligned with our thoughts. Art directors live in a world filled with bad typography. Alt-righters see signs of a Jewish conspiracy everywhere. Every referee decision that goes against their team furthers Liverpool fans’ narrative that their club has been treated with injustice. The confirmation bias is a very real filter through which we perceive the world.

A dream for healthcare systems around the world—how a supermarket trip might look like to people who are motivated to eat healthy.

With this in mind, LOA suddenly becomes more believable. For example, if the topic of wanting a relationship weighs heavily in your mind, wouldn’t it be reasonable that you’ll actively pay more attention to the eligible men or women that appear in your life? (This relates somewhat to why otherwise good people cheat on their spouses, but that’d be for another post…) And because you pay more attention to more of those fine men or women around you, the chance of sparks flying is likely to increase too. Not quite as 100% certain as The Secret would have you believe, but a book with “Your thoughts manifest your reality…maybeprinted on its jacket would probably have had a tougher time getting onto The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Another major, and less controversial, aspect of LOA is the importance of showing gratitude to what you already have in life. It’s also core to most major religions and the relatively recent positive psychology movement. It’s even made its way into the modern workplace. Being appreciative for what you have is, well, another way to make confirmation bias work for you. By being thankful for, and hence paying more attention to, the good things around you, what reasonably follows is that you’ll notice more good things appearing in your life that you might otherwise overlook. Or in LOA terms, being grateful attracts more positivity.

There’s still a lot of woo-woo around LOA that I’m not prepared to explain. But wherever on the leap-of-faith spectrum you’re on, if you can make confirmation bias work in your favour, why not?