I’m quite the stickler for getting facts correct. When it comes to figuring out the facts regarding behavior and the lunar cycle, it’s all in shades of grey.
It irritates me tremendously to hear “Oh, it must be a full moon.” I’ve even been so bold as to give those who have uttered this expression a copy of my favorite article on the subject, “The moon was full and nothing happened”, by Rotton, Kelly and Culver. I wrote about the topic in the Inquiring Minds newsletter.
There was a recent story out of London regarding new research that suggested the effect was again measured. Well, shut my mouth and call me skeptical, once again — I don’t buy it. I take exception to the subtitle that says “At last, scientists claim to have found a link between our satellite and human behaviour” Nope. False advertising.
The news story mentions “recent” research but I haven’t found the citations. (If someone has them, I’d appreciate the info.) I did find a plethora of studies that have examined lunar cycle. Here are a few attempted correlations:
- post operative nausea and vomiting
- patient falls
- admissions for gastrointestinal bleeding
- surgery quality – complications, pain perception
- stock returns
- requests for appointments to a thyroid clinic
- broodmare fertility
- seizure occurrences
- assisted reproduction conception rates
along with the frequently cited connection with suicides, emergency calls, births, etc.
Here’s the bottom line. For every positive correlation, you can find a negative one. In some cases, the study sample size is large (n=over 100,000). For some, control for weekends and holidays is used (when people are more likely to be active at night or indulge in less safe activities). The whole deal about how the moon-affects-the-earth-(influencing tides)-so-it-must-act-on-a-person-is-incorrect. Physics easily squashes that one.
Color me doubtful because researchers have a lot more ‘splaining to do before I’m convinced. I’d suggest not looking at the human behaviors but start looking for some actual physical mechanism. However, I will leave my opinion on this propped open just a crack based on the following: it may be some effect that we are not precisely measuring that can be coupled with people or situations that may be sensitive to that effect. Whereby, it is not the full moon itself but some related physical action. Note that these effects occur during the new moon phase or days before or after full/new, not strictly at full moon.
Finally, regardless if the effect exists or not, (and this goes the same for psychic phenomena as mentioned in a previous post), the effect is so small as to be practically ignorable. It doesn’t bother me, far as I can tell. If it is indeed confirmed that some mechanism is working to make things ever so slightly more weird during parts of the looner, I mean, lunar cycle, we’ll at least be able to heap genuine pity on those emergency personnel who will have a bit rougher time of it.
Kelly, I.W., James Rotton, and Roger Culver. “The Moon was Full and Nothing Happened: A Review of Studies on the Moon and Human Behavior and Human Belief,” in J. Nickell, B. Karr and T. Genoni, eds., The Outer Edge (Amherst, N.Y.: CSICOP, 1996). Older versions of this article appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer Winter 1985-86 (vol. 10, no. 2) and in The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal, edited by Kendrick Frazier (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1991), pp. 222-234.
For more info on the skeptical view, see the Skeptic’s Dictionary. There are tons of pro-lunar effect internet stuff out there.