The Psychology and Outcomes of “Manifesting”
It builds confidence but real-world outcomes usually aren’t better, and may be worse...
The word “manifest” means “readily perceived by the senses, especially the sense of sight” and “easily understood by the mind”, aka “obvious”. The practice of manifesting, on the other hand, implies a magical summoning of great success through the power of determined faith in oneself, through communion with powerful forces that materialize desired realities if one places oneself in the right frame of mind.
Manifesting, according to researchers Dixon, Hornsey and Hartley in their paper in Personality and Social Science Bulletin (2023), is a practice gaining momentum among Americans, introduced by personalities like Norman Vincent Peale in his 1952 The Power of Positive Thinking and more recently by an array of big-name celebs and, increasingly, social media influencers. Think Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins.
Study authors report that Americans are more focused now than ever before on success, while noting that exactly how to succeed remains quite elusive in a society where few achieve the wealth, fame, and power depicted in the media and promised in the American dream and in many religious traditions. The personal-development industry has blossomed in such ripe conditions, offering visions of effortless paths to untold riches via various forms of “energy” or “vibration” techniques ranging from repeating positive thoughts and wishes to symbolic acts such as writing blank checks to oneself.
Across three studies, researchers developed a manifesting measurement tool and looked further for correlations among manifesting aspects and various psychological and risk-related factors. It’s important to note that how we think about factors contributing to resilience and post-traumatic growth (including mental flexibility, optimism, and active coping such as meaning-making) and belief in one’s influence and self-efficacy are correlated with improved function to a limited extent. Such outcomes are connected with effort and decisions traceable to rational steps and action planning-in contrast with manifesting, in which the mechanisms of success are mediated through supernatural forces.