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Description: Way, way back when I was in high school, my English/Social Studies teacher invited a group of young people to come and talk to us. They had committed themselves to Hare Krishna, spent a LOT of time chanting (Google it) and a lot of time at the airport handing flowers to people and asking for donations. During the question period, a student in the class asked them how they managed financially and whether they had any sources of income other than the flower-related donations. I found the answer striking. The responder said, “well, we do not worry about money at all, but you know every month the amount of money that comes in matches the costs of our needs to the penny!” It was clear that they saw some sort of divine intervention, possibly related to their level of devotion and prayer as the cause of each month’s “to the penny” outcome. I remember thinking at the time that an alternative explanation was that they simply maintained a positive outlook and got by on whatever happened to come in in a particular month. I was not being cynical. I was just hypothesizing. Much more recently in a course I teach called Psychology For Everyday Life I usually spend some time in an early class talking about the self-help industry which is worth millions of dollars. I talk about the “self-help” book called The Secret which essentially says that if you want something you think about it a LOT and, if possible, hang around near where it may be found and if you do you may well get what you want. Sure, there are a LOT more words involved in the book itself, but it really does boil down to “think it into reality.” What is wrong with this? Well, I do not know but I am not aware of any systematic data supporting it as an approach to success and wellbeing. But perhaps I have not looked hard enough? Have you heard of manifesting? Leveling up your life? I am going to say no more at this point BUT read the article linked below and as you do think about these questions. What is going on with and for those people who are working on manifesting their desires? Manifesting, at face value, is one hypothesis but are there others? I saw no research cited in the article so, how would we empirically test the claims about manifestation being made?

Source: Making dreams come true: inside the new age world of manifesting, Stuart McGurk, The Guadian.

Date: March 20, 2022

Image by mohamed_hassan from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, what do you think about manifesting? As a psychologist I am not prepared to say anything summarily such as “wow, these people are nuts to be believing in and pursuing something that is without tangible basis”. That said, I am also not prepared to say that there may be something to this manifesting business. What I am prepared to say is that there is something (actually likely a LOT of somethings) psychological going on with this clearly large interest in manifesting. But as to what it is, what it involves and what will prove out over time…. well we will have to see and, yes, a LOT of research needs to be done to make that possible. Could be quite interesting but maybe not in ways that will fit with current thoughts about or beliefs in manifesting.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is manifesting (according to those who seek it)?
  2. What might manifesting be connected to or involve, if not “thinking things into reality”?
  3. What sorts of research are needed in order to sort out answers to question 2 above?

References (Read Further):

Cunha, L. F., Pellanda, L. C., & Reppold, C. T. (2019). Positive psychology and gratitude interventions: A randomized clinical trial. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 584. Link

Lomas, T., Waters, L., Williams, P., Oades, L. G., & Kern, M. L. (2021). Third wave positive psychology: Broadening towards complexity. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 16(5), 660-674. Link

Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2016). Nine beautiful things: A self-administered online positive psychology intervention on the beauty in nature, arts, and behaviors increases happiness and ameliorates depressive symptoms. Personality and Individual Differences, 94, 189-193. Link

Aspinwall, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. G. (2010). The value of positive psychology for health psychology: Progress and pitfalls in examining the relation of positive phenomena to health. Annals of behavioral medicine, 39(1), 4-15. Link

Tenney, E. R., Logg, J. M., & Moore, D. A. (2015). (Too) optimistic about optimism: The belief that optimism improves performance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 108(3), 377. Link

St. James, Y., Handelman, J. M., & Taylor, S. F. (2011). Magical thinking and consumer coping. Journal of Consumer Research, 38(4), 632-649. Link

Last Note: I searched for an hour online and did not find a single study that focused upon manifestation.