The Law Of Attraction outlined in the book and film “The Secret” has gotten a lot of attention recently. I had a long discussion last night about the nature of this belief (it seems to be something of a religion), and the implications of this law if indeed exists. It’s described on Wikipedia as the idea that “thoughts influence chance”. Furthermore, it promotes the idea that optimism about a given situation sways the outcome positively, and pessimism sways it negatively. To quote Wikipedia:
Essentially, “if you really want something and truly believe it’s possible, you’ll get it”, but putting a lot of attention and thought onto something you don’t want means you’ll probably get that too.
While initially skeptical about a power-of-positive-thinking belief system, I realized that this system makes a lot of sense even if the super-natural elements are absent. Firstly, a positive attitude will most certainly be of benefit in human interaction. A job candidate who feels positively about the outcome of the interview will probably interview better than someone who doesn’t see themselves getting the job. This isn’t about influencing the fabric of the universe with positive thinking, it’s about affecting human interaction with a positive attitude. The takeaway is positive people have positive interactions.
Let’s put that aside, and discuss the non-human implications of this law. It states that chance itself can be influenced by our attitude. This is the supposition which immediately strikes me as super-natural. If it exists then it contradicts something we thought we knew about nature: Namely that thought cannot change physical laws.
This isn’t without precedent however, we see this behavior in the placebo effect. The placebo effect is real, it has been established that humans can change their health merely by the strength of their beliefs. However, humans are so complex that experiments are very difficult to control.
For me, the beauty of the Law of Attraction is that it opens itself up to some simple tests. I propose the following. A group a people engage in an experiment in which each day before they turn their car on to drive home, they flip a coin. If they get heads, they drive home optimistic about finding a parking place on the street directly in front of their house. If they get heads, they should be pessimistic about finding parking. After a month of data, we should begin to see that days with head flips find parking easier, and days with tails flips should find it more difficult.
So rarely do religious beliefs present such testable, reproducible hypotheses. So what say you? Let’s test to see if we can change the universe with our minds.