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The Law of Attraction is a Scam

Here’s some basic science to prove exactly why


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Nabil Alouani

a year ago | 7 min read

We suck at understanding complicated things and we hate to admit it because it makes us feel stupid. So we come up with simplified explanations like “the earth is the center of the universe” and “we only use 10% of our brains.”

Then, science catches up and replaces our naive assumptions with evidence-backed facts like “the earth revolves around the sun,” and “we’re using 100% of our brains — it’s just that different tasks activate different brain circuits.”

Such updates didn’t happen yet with The Law of Attraction though. Why? The famous law is at the intersection of two areas that remain obscure to our knowledge. We still don’t know much about the mind and even less about the nature of the universe.

So when someone shows up and writes some mystical bullshit about the mind and the universe, people listen. Here’s an example from an author who sold 35 million copies about the very concept I’m about to dismantle.

The Secret [of life] is the Law of Attraction.Under the Law of Attraction, the complete order of the Universe is determined, including everything that comes into your life and everything that you experience. It does so through the magnetic power of your thoughts.Through the Law of Attraction like attracts like.

Proving the Law of Attraction to be bullshit

What pains me most is to see the Law of Attraction “explained through science.” Here’s another excerpt from the same author I mentioned above.

Under laboratory conditions, cutting edge science has confirmed that every thought is made up of energy and has its own unique frequency.And when this energy and frequency of a single thought radiates out into the Universe, it naturally interacts with the material world.Of course, it has long been known that matter, or physical objects, are also just packets of energy at the sub-microscopic, quantum level.And so, as your thought radiates out, it attracts the energy and frequencies of like thoughts, like objects, and even like people, and draws those things back to you.It follows then that your THOUGHTS… BECOME… THINGS!It’s the Law of Attraction.

Fancy text? Maybe. Full of bullshit? Absolutely. All it takes to uncover the truth behind these mystical claims is a sneak peek into the actual laws of physics.

There are four fundamental forces that shape the world as we know it, and all four of them can generate some form of attraction.

  1. Weak interaction.Occurs when an atom decays to become another — like in radioactive reactions.
  2. Strong force.Holds together the components of the nucleus of an atom.
  3. Gravity.Makes objects attract each other according to their masses.
  4. Electromagnetic forceMakes electrically-charged objects attract or repulse each other.

Unless your job involves looking inside the nucleus of an atom, the first two forces will never pique your interest. The weak interaction and strong force operate at a sub-atomic level and their range is so small I spent an hour finding a way to explain it without confusing the heck out of you, and me.

Picture one hair. Now split that hair in length to make 100,000 identical thin pieces out of it. The weak interaction and strong force don’t affect that extremely tiny slice of hair because it’s too big. Yes, too big.

Now let’s zoom out a bit.

The Law of Attraction is supposed to help you attract things like cash, cars, people, and houses — you know, stuff that’s way, way bigger than a piece of hair. That’s why it’s impossible for the weak interaction and strong force to be involved with the so-called law, which leaves us with two options. Gravity and electromagnetic force.

Let’s look at gravity first.

The fancy definition of gravity is “a space-time distortion caused by a mass.” The less fancy one is “all objects with a mass attract others — and the heavier an object the stronger its gravitational force.”

The catch? The effects of gravity remain insignificant unless the mass of the considered object is really, really big — and that’s a good thing. Otherwise, you’d be making dinner and kitchen knives would start to move towards you then smash against your chest because you attract them with gravity. That doesn’t happen because you’re too light for your gravity to affect your surroundings.

In contrast, the earth weighs 5.9 trillion, trillion kilograms. That’s enough mass to lock the moon in a constant revolution and make an apple fall on Newton’s head.

The point is: unless you’re literally a star or planet, you can’t attract shit with gravity — not a house, not a car, not even a dollar bill. And so, gravity doesn’t explain the Law of Attraction.

This brings us to the last chance for the Law of Attraction to have a plausible explanation. Let’s look at the electromagnetic force.

Whether it’s an electrically-charged atom or a magnet, objects with alike electromagnetic energies repel each other. You can try this at home with two magnets. North poles will push each other way and so will South poles but opposite poles — North and South — attract each other.

In other words, the electromagnetic force states the exact opposite of what the Law of Attraction claims. Opposite electromagnetic energies attract each other, whilst similar ones repel each other.

So, there you have it. The four forces that help us explain pretty much everything we know about the universe go against the Law of Attraction. In particular, the electromagnetic field contradicts it. So unless the author is smarter than Einstein, Coulomb, Ampère, Faraday, and Maxwell, I say the Law of Attraction is one hell of a scam.

Still, one particular question bugged me for a while.

Why do many people believe in the Law of Attraction?

The short answer is confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is our brains’ tendency to stick to our initial beliefs regardless of existing information that proves otherwise. Here’s an example I stole from C. James Goodwin and Kerri A. Goodwin.

Persons believing in extrasensory perception (ESP) will keep close track of instances when they were thinking about Mom, and then the phone rang and it was her!Yet they ignore the far more numerous times when (a) they were thinking about Mom and she didn’t call and (b) they weren’t thinking about Mom and she did call.

Instead of ESP we have the Law of Attraction and as with the former, we want to believe in it. The famous law is sexy because it promises success with no effort. All you have to do is think your goals into being.

Besides, the law makes you feel special as you’ll be somewhat the center of a universe that grants your wishes — and we, humans, love to feel special.

That’s why it’s hard to resist temptation. “What’s the worst that can happen?” we’d think. “Let’s give it a shot.”

And as with the Mom call example, every time something good happens we think “Oh look! The Law of Attraction is working!” and we dismiss all the times where it didn’t.

Put differently, we want to believe in the law so we cherry-pick evidence that confirms it. Speaking of cherry-picking, the famous law isn’t 100% trash.

The only useful thing about the Law of Attraction

It’s a tiny thing but it can be powerful.

The law encourages you to think about your goals and when you do, your mind starts to pay attention to information that can help you achieve that goal. A common example is when you’re about to make a significant purchase like a phone or a car.

As soon as you get serious about buying a new car, you soon start to notice what vehicles your friends drive. Without thinking, you ask them how much insurance costs and how reliable their model is. Another odd thing that often happens is a surge in car-related ads, you seem to see them everywhere.

In a sense, your mind becomes calibrated to capture useful information that can help achieve the goal of acquiring a new vehicle.

That calibration comes from a particular part of your mind called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It’s a lot like a filter that decides what gets under the radar of your attention and what doesn’t.

The interesting part? You can program your RAS. You can choose what you unconsciously pay attention to.

Now, this doesn’t mean that if you spend your time thinking of a billion-dollar house and a fleet of private jets, your brain will figure out how to have those. You want to think of something within your reach, something you can work towards right away, like creating a website or saving up for a new car.

I’ve been experimenting with the RAS thingy for more than two years now. I put together three activities that helped me align my internal information radar with my ongoing goals. Here they are.

  • Spend a lot of time working on your goal. When you do research, create mockups, or write a few posts, your mind will consider your work as a priority. Over time, your RAS will learn to catch relevant information that moves you forward.
  • Imagine yourself doing some work. It’s like a mental rehearsal where you play with your ideas to find solutions or create content or products.
  • Let your mind wander during long walks. This is how you integrate the new ideas you just learned and connect them together to create new ones.

Remember, you are what you pay attention to, and you only attract the things you work for.

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Nabil Alouani

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Business | Psychology | Marketing — What's your favorite quote? Mine is "True masters are eternal students."


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