Researched by Thomas DeMichelePublished - December 3, 2015 Last Updated - December 6, 2016
Can Thought Create Reality? (Actual Science-based Facts Behind the Law of Attraction)
Our thoughts can shape our inner reality and outward perceptions of things (neuroplasticity), but to affect or create a reality outside ourselves, we must interact with the world and communicate our thoughts.
On this page we explore the facts and myths behind the Law of Attraction, and other “almost right” related self-help-mysticism, from the perspective of western neuroscience and social science.
Synaptic plasticity. Let’s start off with the real science behind “like-attracts-like”.
FACT: Like attracts like, this is due to neuroplasticity (where we shape our own worlds and open ourselves up to outside influences), social influence (where we influence others based on our own attitudes and experiences and others in turn influence us), and other related effects. There are no magical thought powers beyond the ones we actually have. With this in mind, few actually fully understand what powers we have, so let us start there.
Social Influence: Crash Course Psychology #38.
TIP: Fair warning. We are talking about self-help-science here. This means the majority of other people talking about this are trying to sell eBooks and are coming from a “how to be happy and successful” self-help angle. Consider forefathers of the field like Napoleon Hill and his book “Think And Grow Rich (read in full online)“. Ironically, the same reasons the rule of attraction works are same reasons the mechanics work to manipulate people into buying ebooks. Don’t get sidetracked, stick with the science. You can look to self help books for a roadmap, but try not to focus too much on one person’s marketing.
The Law of Attraction takes this one step further and submits that we can somehow circumvent science and hard work with the power of thought. This is junk science, except in the way it relates to the other two points.
We can prove the first two points true easily, the last point on the conclusion of the Law of Attraction is straight up pseudo science (i.e. not experiment backed and peer-reviewed). This doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, just check out our page on the human senses, what this means is that mystical explanations aren’t necessary given the wonders of modern scientific understanding.
How Does the Law of Attraction Work? (From a Scientific Perspective)
Junk science and mysticism aside, we can change our reality and the world with little more than an idea.
We can focus our attention to reshape our own minds and we can directly, or indirectly, communicate our thoughts to affect others. Using these very real powers we can shape reality in terms of perception and ideology, and that can have a number of corresponding real world effects. We can also literally affect reality in a physical sense too. For example, when Michelangelo carved his masterpiece David from rock he created reality from an idea. Of course, he used his expertise and tools and not his ideas alone.
When we focus on something, we increase the probability that we will attract it into our lives, but there is no evidence to prove that thoughts in isolation can manifest reality. Even if we suspend disbelief and say that thoughts alone affect reality, we know that it is more effective to pair thought with action.
Thought alone can be powerful, but it takes other factors such as attention, intention, effort, action, time, and luck for us to impact reality in a meaningful way.
A take on the Law of Attraction trying to find the truth in between the hype and reality.
Some people mistake The Law of Attraction (the idea that “like attracts like”) to mean that thoughts alone will manifest reality and the universe will bring you what you want based on your thoughts alone. This idea may be attractive, but it seldom works.
Below we take a deeper look at how thoughts can affect reality and then what the Law of Attraction is really about.
A deeper look at the Law of Attraction and how it pairs with intention and action. It points out that “without action nothing can be achieved”.
Does Perception Alter Reality?
Our thoughts can alter our perception. This can have a great impact on our own reality and even affect the world around us. The same principle applies to perception since the two are tightly linked. Perception can be powerful, but to affect reality outside yourself, it requires other factors like action.
What is Reality?
Reality, in the sense we are using it, is both the physical world around us and people’s perceptions of that world. Reality can also be used to mean “what really is” rather than perception what is real. In this case, we are including it to mean “perceived reality” as well.
How Can Thoughts Actually Create Reality?
To answer the question “how can thoughts can create reality” let’s begin by looking at a simple example: I stop thinking about the negative problems in my life and focus on being happy and treating people well. I treat the next person I see nicely. They respond positively. In turn, and I pick up on the positive feedback in their words and body language. The experience actually rewires the synapses in my brain to favor that sort of experience. The person I communicated with takes that optimism into their day (potentially rippling that effect). With active thinking, good intentions, and some physical and mental effort I have “created” my reality and the reality around me.
Now let’s break down some of the other factors aside from “thought” that was used to “create reality” in the above example:
Action: Actually doing something to communicate your thoughts. Creating and doing are closely linked.
Effort: How much effort you put into the thought, including the actual physical effort to actualize the idea.
Time: The amount of time spent thinking about the idea, putting attention toward it, and putting effort into it.
Luck: The complex web of factors that dictates chance favoring a person.
Now let’s apply this thinking to something more fantastical. This time instead of “attracting” positivity we are going to try to attract “becoming a rock star guitarist”:
I have the wish or thought to become a rock star guitarist.
I focus attention on the idea thinking about what it’s like to be a rock star guitarist. In doing so, I connect some sets of neurons and strengthen neural pathways related to “rock star guitar-ism”.
My intentions behind why I want to become a rock star guitarist will help shape how the idea comes into fruition.
Certainly, I must take action and practice the guitar to bring my idea to life. Practicing the guitar requires consistent physical effort over time. Pairing physical time and effort with mental time and effort is essential. When I practice I not only strengthen neurons that rely on pure thought, I strengthen connections based on motor skills and build coordination. With lots of repetition, and perhaps adding in things like taking lessons, jamming with others, and other social learning settings, I begin to develop the specific skills needed in reality.
Every step of the way I will have to apply attention, intention, effort, and time to increase the odds of becoming a rock star guitarist. Every step of the way I can reinforce this with my mindset, becoming the rockstar not just in chops, but in my headspace.
Of course no matter how hard I try, and how much I increase my odds, I’ll still need to get “lucky”. I shouldn’t expect to become a rock star based on mindset or skill. More probable is that the effort I put into being a rock star will pay off in some other way at some unforeseen time down the road. At the very least I will have enjoyed music and built my skill level and confidence by keeping a positive, focused, mindset and forward momentum.
Certainly, with a mindset of being a rock guitarist and the skills to back it up, the chances i’ll notice opportunities in my life to move toward my dream increase. I may not be able to draw bandmates to me with my mind, but with my new mindset I may very well notice a potential bandmate where I wouldn’t have had before, and have the skill and confidence to inspire them to join my dream or elect to share our collective dreams together.
Thoughts are very powerful on their own, but when you put in physical and mental effort over time, and then add in the effects of other people, you greatly increase your odds of getting lucky.
FACT(ISH): If you build it (and you put thought, attention, intention, effort, and time into it) you increase the odds of them coming.
The Law of Attraction
The Law of Attraction states that like things attract like things, but thought, in and of itself, does not create reality.
The Law of Attraction says that “like attracts like”. In other words, if you think positive you attract positivity, if you think negatively you attract negativity. This can also be applied to the idea of attracting anything you want in your life by thinking about it.
The core concepts of “like attracting like” are true enough (science even proves our brains rewire based on thought and the above examples help paint a picture of what it means in practice).
Despite the core concept being solid, some people take it to mean “anything can happen if I think about it enough and want it”. This is not accurate. A thought does not create reality alone, despite being able to affect it in lots of interesting ways.
A useful look at “how the law of attraction works and how to use it”. It discusses not focusing on “what is wrong”, as the law of attraction says that focusing on negativity attracts negativity.
Some Ways in Which Thought Helps Creates Reality
Below are a few real life scientific ways that thought can help create reality.
We can take an active effort to change our thinking; the “use of willpower” has an immediate effect on ourselves and the world around us.
Our thought and sensory input strengthen synaptic pathways that can rewire our brains. Thus, we can alter our personal reality with thoughts. This can affect how we interact with the world around us over the long term.
Humans can use communication, in many forms, to convey ideas that affect the thinking and behavior of others.
We can pair our thoughts with effort and time to create something or increase the odds of manifesting the desired outcome.
Ways in Which Thought Doesn’t Create Reality
Here are some real life science / logic based ways thought doesn’t create reality.
One does not follow up the thought with at least time and effort. In this case, we can expect, at least, little to no effect.
One does not apply attention and intention to the thought. A fleeting thought that does not get one’s attention has little of a chance of having an effect.
How to Attract Things Into Your Life
You can “attract” things into your life by using thought as a foundation. This process can be simple, like focusing on being happy, or can be more complex. One generally is advised to focus on non-selfish, positive, and simple things. Be careful what you wish for as they say.
The first step is not just thought, but at least “active thought”. Active thought means actively focusing on what you want and what it’s might be like for this to be in your life.
It’s not just attention that is important, your intention is very important as well. If you do something for positive reasons you may get different results than if you do it for negative reasons. It’s important to focus, on things that you want and don’t want in your life.
Although some things don’t require physical effort, most will. If you want to be happy, focus on happy and put happiness out into the world. If you want to be a rock star, you’ll need to learn the skills, gain expertise and then meet the right people and be very lucky.
No matter what you are trying to manifest there is a certain amount of luck involved. Things don’t always happen when you want or happen in the way that you want them to; sometimes things don’t happen at all.
Remember, if you are trying to acquire a skill you’ll need to pair practice with thinking about practicing. Thought is always more powerful when paired with effort and action.
While thoughts can be powerful, there are a number of other important factors. This most important thing to remember about the influence of thought on reality is to stay positive and not dwell on the negativity. The synaptic pathways of our brain can actually rewire based on your thoughts.
Given the above, I personally thought it important to clarify what parts of the law of attraction gelled with what I know about the understanding of life from a more academic standpoint and which parts didn’t.
Like attracts like, thoughts can impact our reality and consequently the reality of others. But very little happens until we apply other forces like time, effort, intention, and attention. And certainly life offers no guarantees, it’s likely a thing won’t play out without a little luck and/or likely that it won’t turn out as expected.
Thomas DeMichele is the content creator behind ObamaCareFacts.com, FactMyth.com, CryptocurrencyFacts.com, and other DogMediaSolutions.com and Massive Dog properties. He also contributes to MakerDAO and other cryptocurrency-based projects. Tom's focus in all...