The next full moon is coming up on August 18th. Many people, including professional emergency room personnel, police officers and psychiatry staff believe that things tend to get a little wackier during that time of month. The long withstanding cultural narrative of the moon tells of werewolves, lunacy, seizures, accidents and strange events during the full moon. Books like Shakespeare’s Othello, Hollywood werewolf flicks and vampire legends all feed the widespread belief that a moonstruck individuals are prone to unusual behavior. Lunatics were even named after the moon, which is “Luna” in Latin.
The only problem? Science can’t back up that this is really a fact. Try as they might, scientists can’t seem to come up with reliable data that any accidents, seizures, crime or psychiatric events and admissions coincide with the full moon. The only events that significantly increase are pet emergency veterinarian visits. Maybe people tend to take their dogs out more during the full moon, but maybe something really does happen to them.
Theorists believe the moon affects us by way of gravitational pull on the water in our body, but that does not necessarily hold true. The moon does effect the oceans very slightly, but the oceans are incredibly large compared to the human body. In reality, the large distance between us and the moon makes its effect almost null. For example, if someone is holding a baby, it exerts more gravitational pull on them than the moon. In fact, if a mosquito lands on your arm, it exerts more gravitational pull on your body than the moon!
This belief is still very widely held and there are several reasons that it is. During the not-so-long-ago times when electricity was not available, people were usually kept up by the extra light of the moon. Maybe this is why the legends started in the Middle Ages. Sleep deprivation could make people irritable or irrational during that time and lead to erratic behavior. A good pair of blinds or curtains can easily remedy that issue.
The moon cycle (29.5 days) is very similar to the human menstrual cycle (28 days). Thirty percent of women report having a cycle that consistently coincides with the full moon. The second largest group coincided with the new moon. During menses, women experience hormonal changes and it’s possible that they can tend to be sensitive, emotional, irritable or not feeling very well. Perhaps that causes them to do things that may seem more “crazy” or out of character than usual and it just so happens to coincide with the full moon.
Scientists will, at best, say there needs to be more research. Most agree that the full moon has no effect on us and further research would be futile. They think that strange events during a full moon are tied to the celestial event, while strange events at any other time are simply not. Our expectations influence how we perceive things and we look for evidence that supports our beliefs. This phenomenon, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologists Loren and Jean Chapman is called “illusionary correlation”.
Whether the moon really makes us crazy remains somewhat mysterious, like the moon itself. Maybe see for yourself next week if you notice something strange.
Arkowitz, Hal, and Scott O. Lilienfeld. “Lunacy and the Full Moon.” Scientific American. Nature America Inc., 1 Feb. 2009. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
Britt, Robert. “Moon Myths: The Truth About Lunar Effects on You. “LiveScience. TechMedia Network, Apr. 2016. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
Rincunas, Susan. “4 Strange Ways the Moon Might Affect Our Bodies.” Health News. Time Inc Network, 08 Aug. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.