An interesting question now: Is Self-Fulfilling Prophecy really the secret behind the Law of Attraction? Or is the law of attraction a hoax? We pick this intriguing topic from pop culture and put it through scientific scrutiny.
Read on as we dive into the mythology and psychology behind self-fulfilling prophecy and find out how scientific the law of attraction is.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Law of Attraction (LoA)
An overblown pop-culture idea that has been peddled as science for the last 70 years: The Law of Attraction.
You just have to scratch the surface of this popular idea with a small bit of scientific rigor, and you’ll find out it is not authentic science, but pseudoscience.
Starting out as a Positive Thinking movement, it was cemented in the public imagination with the publication of a bestselling book with those words, written back in 1952. What has changed about this popular idea since then?
Almost nothing. Just ask around and you’ll see it has not changed.
People still believe that if you think only positive things—and keep all your attention away from negative emotions and events—good things will come to you automatically and magically.
You must have come across this in many forms on your social media. A recent one this author came across was this:
Be so positive that negative feelings don’t want to hang around you.
But the truth is, as psychological science has proven, again and again, our negative emotions have a survival purpose. There’s this brilliant book on the usefulness of our negative emotions by two psychologists, Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener: The Power of Negative Emotion.
Let’s take it a notch down now. What was the secret behind Teh Scerte (re-arrange the letters to decode the famous 2006 book that has sold 30+ million copies)? Here’s a hint: Mark Manson wrote an entire article about that book.
The book tom-tommed the idea of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP) in a new package, calling it the Law of Attraction (LoA). This “metaphysical law” said your thoughts become your reality.
So, if you want good things in life, you only have to think positive things to attract those great things in life. And those things will surely come to you in time.
New-age believers openly refer to the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy as the Law of Attraction. This is their major money-spinning mantra.
Just remember, LoA warns you, no negative thinking ever if you want the good things in your life. If you think positively, you’ll attract into your life whatever prizes you want — money, fame, house, whatever.
But all along, you have to be sharply aware of negative thoughts arising in your mind, and throw them out immediately.
On the flip side, and this is the real unpleasant side of it. If you have an accident, a setback, or a disease, it’s your fault. The law of attraction says you lured that misfortune to yourself. With your negative thinking, you had attracted the bad things.
To top it all off, she said the entire universe is conspiring to give you what you want – through your positive or negative thoughts. Because, she laid out, all the matter and energy in the universe are emitting frequencies. And the frequency of your thoughts will attract matter and energy of similar frequency to you.
She even called in the ghosts of Shakespeare, Edison, and Abraham Lincoln to side with her on this.
Give it to the author and her team; they devised a brilliant strategy to market the idea. She dubbed it the secret of the universe and convinced millions of people that its principles have a base in quantum mechanics. Whoa!
[Since we’re at it, here’s a great scientific, beginner’s level, book on quantum physics: How To Teach Quantum Physics To Your Dog].
The truth is, The Secret took the scientific concept of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP) and created a marketing blitzkrieg out of it.
Scientific Fallacy: What’s Wrong With The LoA
Is The Law of Attraction a hoax, a con-trick? There is definitely something wrong here, as you might have guessed.
It did not tell its believers there were some results that did not confirm the idea. What the book did was go to the masses with some shoddy anecdotal evidence that supported the core idea of self-fulfilling prophecy, while removing all its failings.
It meticulously pushed all the data percentages under the carpet that didn’t fit the idea. They went to town claiming it worked like magic because famous people used it in their lives to rise to success and stardom, and the popular imagination fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
That’s not how science works, as that book wants you to believe. That’s not how scientists want their findings to be popularized. They want the people to see the accurate picture — warts and all, not some photo-shopped glamorous version of their research.
3 Unique Qualities of Scientists
What the scientists see in the Rosenthal experiment differs from what promoters of the Law of Attraction (LoA) see. Because scientists have these unique qualities:
1. Scientists accept limitations and failures.
Rosenthal and Jacobson didn’t hide the fact that the Pygmalion effect was seen only in the youngest children — first and second graders, not in the older third and fourth graders.
2. Scientists always stay open to critiques.
Robert Thorndike, an expert in educational and psychological testing, reviewed the study soon after it came out, and criticized it. He even wrote its findings were worthless.
3. Scientists keep checking other experiments.
Scientists always keep a close watch on the results of similar experiments conducted by other researchers. In 1978, ten years after their original study, Rosenthal and Rubin co-authored a report based on 345 experiments involving the influence of interpersonal expectations.
They concluded, “The reality of the phenomenon is beyond doubt.” The critics eventually quietened, and the Pygmalion Effect became something like an article of faith.
But like any huckster, the LoA advocates conveniently hide critical facts from you, keep the critiques shut, and never bother to find out what non-supportive data came from others.
From the ardent LoA advocates, you’ll get something like this:
Expect excellence from your children and you are going to get it.
So you see the problem there. The science of human behavior doesn’t work in absolutes, as “the believers” want you to believe in the law of attraction.
If your wishes didn’t come true, the fault is in you. You did not believe in it strongly enough.
The idea of self-fulfilling prophecy has undergone scientific examination. Sco=ientists have accepted its flaws and limitations.
The law of attraction is a concept that can never fail. Give it a thought. If something fails as a result of applying its principles, then the “Law” hasn’t failed, but you have.
You tell someone it didn’t work for you, and they quip back, “You failed, the secret didn’t. It’s your weak belief and many doubts that sabotaged your wish. Try again.”
And when it succeeds, of course, you go out and share with others how it came true because of your concrete belief. So you see why it has always been a hoax!
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
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