Does the full moon really affect people’s behavior?

Does the full moon really affect people's behavior? Photo: Pexels
Does the full moon really affect people’s behavior? Photo: Pexels

The legend of the effects of the full moon on human behavior has been around for centuries, popularized by the werewolf myth.

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But does the full moon truly affect human behavior? Some say that during the full moon, people commit disastrous actions. And that might just be the reason for what happened to me.
I admit that Brazilians aren’t known for their superior driving skills, but that night, drivers seemed especially erratic. People were cutting me off. One guy sped up at a red light, narrowly escaping a collision at the intersection. And some genius forgot that in this country we drive on the right side of the road.

I wondered what made this night particularly favorable for lunatic drivers compared to any other. It wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s, or very late at night, so drunk driving didn’t seem appropriate. Only when I got out of the car and looked up did I conceive a possible explanation: the full moon.

The legend of the effects of the full moon on human behavior has been around for centuries, popularized by the werewolf myth. The words “madness” and “lunatic” are derived from the same Latin root that gives us the word “lunar”, as people often attribute intermittent insanity to the moon’s phases. While many people believe the full moon influences behavior, scientific studies have found very few pieces of evidence to support the “lunar effect”.

In 1978, University of Miami psychologist Arnold Lieber wrote the book The Lunar Effect: Biological Tides and Human Emotions. He argued that the moon influences everyday behavior and concluded that homicides increased during the full moon after analyzing Miami’s criminal records. Similar criminal studies during the same period, however, found no such relation.

Then, in 1986, researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada combined the results of about 100 studies and found “no causal relation between lunar phenomena and human behavior”. They discovered statistical flaws in many of the papers that claimed to have found such a link. They even reanalyzed Lieber’s homicide data and found no correlation.

More recently, numerous studies have been conducted by intrigued researchers, with most attempts to blame the moon for everything from suicides to post-surgery vomiting coming up empty.

So, with all this evidence to the contrary, what makes the theory of full moon madness still so popular?

Perhaps it’s the media, who know people are more likely to read a crime story if some cop blames the moon. Or maybe people just want to cling to an urban legend that has been around for hundreds of years.

A more scientific answer might be selective memory. If some bizarre murder or car accident occurs, people are more likely to remember it if it happens during a full moon night.

After reading some studies – including one from the authority on this subject, the University of Saskatchewan – I decided the full moon was not responsible for my road experience that night.

Maybe I’ve selectively forgotten the thousands of other times I’ve encountered lunatic drivers. While I don’t have any scientific evidence to prove this (just years of experience), I’m going with the theory that Brazilians are just terrible drivers.

Source: Scienceline

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