Monday, June 7, 2010

No wonder everyone's acting strange, It's a full moon!

Almost everyone can agree that the sight of an amazing full moon perched up against a dark night sky is worth getting off your couch and walking outside for a quick gaze. Its luminous, mysterious, and unique presence casts beams of bright radiance on our world below. With its beauty, it captures us visually, but does its effects on humans go beyond what we perceive? Can a full moon effect human behavior? The full moon has been linked to suicide, mental illness, crime, birth rates, among other things.
I'm sure we've all heard or said it at some point or another. "Oh, no wonder today's been strange, it's a full moon." The full moon theory is believed universally, but to different extents of course. Some people even buy and sell stocks according to the phases of the moon. I'm one of the many people in the world who are absolutely captivated by the sight of a full moon and have often wondered if and how the moon affects humans on earth.
Ivan Kelly, James Rotton, and Roger Culver (1996) examined over one hundred studies on lunar effects. The various studies looked to see if there was a correlation between a full moon and homicide rates, traffic accidents, domestic violence, kidnappings, suicides, assaults, epilepsy, and much more. All of the studies failed to find a significant correlation between the variables. More recently, there have been many other studies that failed to document a correlation between a full moon and human behavior.
There are three main reasons why this theory doesn't hold up. First, the gravitational effects of the moon are too minuscule to generate any really meaningful effects on human brain activity. Second, the moon's force effects only large bodies of water, like oceans, but not contained sources of water, like the human brain. Finally, the gravitational pull of the moon is just as potent during new moons as it is during full moons.
So why does this myth refuse to die? Well, as with most myths, the media does its share of perpetuating with films constantly portraying the lunar myth. Anecdotal evidence supporting the myth is not hard to find and reporters know that one good anecdote drills many well done scientific studies into the ground when it comes to readers interest. Well thought out scientific studies often does not hold up in laypeople's minds, especially when these people are often searching for confirmation bias. The lunar myth has been found to be just another illusory correlation, the perception of a correlation that does not in fact exist. After reading up on some well done research, I am too no longer a believer in the lunar myth. Although I believe that there are some things that go on between humans and the natural world that cannot be explained through experimentation, the lunar myth seems to be another falsehood.

-Clarie-Ann Henriques

Lilienfeld, Scott O, and Hal Arkowitz. "Lunacy and the Full Moon." Scientific
American. N.p., Feb. 2009. Web. 7 June 2010.

Sue. "Does a full moon actually affect people’s behavior?" scienceline. N.p., 31
Mar. 2008. Web. 7 June 2010.

Carroll, Robert T. "full moon and lunar effects." The Skeptic's Dictionary.
N.p., 14 Feb. 2010. Web. 7 June 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I know so many people who actually do believe that the moon effects different aspects of their lives. The problem is that certain things effect people different and that's why its very easy for research to squash these myths such as the moon effects a person's mood.