Study: People who ‘manifest’ big dreams are more likely to go bankrupt

September 12, 2023

If you dream it, you can do it—or maybe just go broke. Manifesting—the suddenly trendy practice of thinking aspirational thoughts or ideas in order to “cosmically attract” success—might not be as harmlessly woo-woo as it’s hyped up to be, the New York Post reports.

Indeed, those who believe in the practice of manifesting are at higher risk of going bankrupt, according to findings of a new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia also found that daydream believers were more likely to be lured into risky investments and more apt to dangerously presume that they can achieve an unrealistic level of success in a short amount of time.

“In our studies we defined manifestation as the belief that if you send out your desires to the universe through positive thoughts, visualization or acting as if goals have already come true—like writing a pretend cheque to yourself—the universe will deliver what you desire,” lead study author Lucas Dixon told The Times UK.

Researchers analyzed what 375 people thought about manifestation, asking them to rate on a seven-point scale whether or not they agreed with statements such as: “I attract success into my life with the help of the universe or a higher power,” “My soul, spirit or higher self helps me attract success,” and “The universe or a higher power sends me people and events to aid my success.”

For every increased point on the scale, people were 40% more likely to have experienced bankruptcy and 30% more likely to have cryptocurrency investments, but less likely to have invested in stocks.

“Given the value of crypto has a history of having massive gains over short time-frames, we imagine that this finding is related to the fact that manifesters have a stronger belief in getting rich quickly,” Dixon said.

Manifestation could lead to people fixating more on symbolic actions—like visualizing success, rather than instrumental actions, such as managing personal finances.

Those who believe in manifesting are “more likely to feel they have control over fairly uncontrollable aspects of their life —whether they get rich quick or become famous,” Dixon said. “In business, this could lead to an opportunity cost, where time is spent focusing on more uncontrollable long-term goals rather than controllable short-term goals.”

But some of the findings were shocking to Dixon.

“I think we expected to see overoptimism, given this seems to be part of the belief system, but some of the less obvious results, like bankruptcy and belief in getting rich quick, were surprising,” he said.

“Another possibility is that people develop stronger belief in manifestation after they have had experiences with get-rich-quick schemes or having been bankrupt. This is something we yet don’t know.”

He also was surprised to discover how many people genuinely believed in manifestation—one in three participants had a degree of doubt.

“This may be due to the ongoing popularity of books like ‘The Secret’ and ‘Think and Grow Rich,’ but also the rise of social media influencers,” he said.

As of Friday morning, September 9, the manifestation hashtag on TikTok has 43 billion views.

“Manifesters seem to be overly optimistic, believing they are more likely to be successful in the future, in shorter timeframes, meaning they may overestimate the odds of success,” Dixon said.

“Focusing on positive aspects of one’s life, as manifesters tend to do, helps people feel good and to be more resilient, Dixon continued. “However, it may lead to downplaying negative but important signs of business fragility, such as mounting debt.

Research contact: @nypost