There’s a line of thinking that says you can mentally manifest your way to financial success through believing it will happen – but this kind of aspirational mind trick is actually more likely to be linked to risky investments and bankruptcy, new research has found.
Across three studies and a total of 1,023 participants from the United States, researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia developed a scale of belief in manifestation. Around a third of online respondents agreed that positive thoughts and ‘vibes’, together with higher, cosmic forces, have the power to influence real-life events.
That group was also more likely to perceive themselves as successful, both at the current time and in the future. However, the studies didn’t find any objective evidence that manifestation leads to more success in key areas.
“Those who scored higher on our manifestation scale perceived themselves as more successful, had stronger aspirations for success, and believed they were more likely to achieve future success,” says psychology researcher Lucas Dixon, from the University of Queensland.
“But they were also more likely to be drawn to risky investments, have experienced bankruptcy, and dangerously believed they could achieve an unlikely level of success more quickly.”
Believers in manifestation held firm to their ideology even when they were in poor financial situations. The researchers think this could put them at risk of putting too much confidence in unstable investments, such as cryptocurrency and get-rich-quick schemes.
At the same time, the team acknowledges that positive thinking and optimism can be helpful psychologically in certain situations – as long as those mental approaches don’t become too detached from reality.
As a society, we value good looks, wealth, and fame more highly than we used to – and that, in turn, means we’re more desperate to achieve those kinds of goals, perhaps at the expense of common sense and rational thinking, the researchers suggest.
The rise of social media also plays a part here, with a constant stream of influencers appearing online to promise shortcuts to riches. The researchers point out that TikTok videos tagged with “manifestation” have racked up 34.6 billion views as of May 2023.
In conclusion, the study team advises caution when it comes to following the strategies of manifestation gurus and experts – there’s no evidence that manifestation works, and some evidence links it to more perilous financial situations.
“We’d encourage more research into the so-called manifestation influencers who promise success in high-stakes areas like career and financial decision-making,” says Nicole Hartley, an associate professor in the School of Business at the University of Queensland.
The research has been published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.