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Full Moon Madness: The Search for a Relationship between the Mind and Lunar Cycles

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Biology 103
2000 First Web Report
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Full Moon Madness: The Search for a Relationship between the Mind and Lunar Cycles

Caroline Dyar

Friday the 13th is about to roll around. Already a day packed with bogus superstitions, to make this one even worse, it falls on the day of the full moon. Last night my friend wrote me to warn me of the coming emotional madness, ìIt seems like everyone, from the ladies at the bank, to my Mom, to the gate clerks at Glenmore, has been on a critical streak. Anyway, watch out for random comments out of nowhere that seem really mean.... It's just the high degree of tension. My cats have been behaving so strangely this week, seems that the moon has been effecting them as well. Her statement, packed with all the classic stereotypes of the way things change during a full moon, from the human behavioral patterns going awry, right down to a mention of cat fever, must have some logical basis behind it. After all, haven't we all been warned a million times in novels, movies, even on the news, that people act a little funny when the moon is full?

The superstitions about the moon's affect on the animal and human world have existed for centuries. Everyone knows it's not safe to go out on a bright moonlit night (despite the good lighting) for fear of werewolves, or, even worse! an angry waitress or grumpy salesclerk who takes all the emotional energy pent up inside out on whoever first crosses his or her path. These lunar myths are often unconsciously reinforced by people with influence, or fed into by the mass media. When a strange event occurs during the full moon, it is remembered as an event linked to the presence of the full moon and twisted into data that supports the idea of full moon madness instead of being seen as an unrelated event. (2)

Just as the words lunatic and lunacy point to the moon because they are derived from the moon's Latin root, luna, the full moon is always accused of incidents that occur during its phase. (4) Studies have been conducted about the correlation between acts of lunacy (and suicidal attempts) and the phase of the moon, but little connection was found between the two. (2) (3) Fortunately, these studies disproved newspaper reports from 1984 which had heightened people's superstitious nature by mentioning the scientific speculation about the moon's negative influence. (5) Some of the theories on the moon's power almost seem based on factual information; for example, an unscientific work by Arnold L. Lieber entitled How the Moon Affects You introduces the author's "biological tides theory" which explains that the lunar cycles which cause tides in the ocean also cause them in the human body, since the human body is almost 80% water. (1)(8)

One site features are article entitled, "Science says a full moon has no effect on human behavior -- but those on society's frontlines beg to differ." (5) This article explains how scientists have studied the way lunar cycles increase or decrease birth rates, but determined that the gravitational force due to the full moon does not shift greatly when it is a smaller slice of moon, and the small gravity shift that does exist most likely lacks "any effect on the physiology of human beings." (5) A well known study conducted by the late George Abell, an astronomer, investigated the last 10,000 natural (without C-sections) births in LA hospitals and found no correlation between the phase of the Moon and the number of births. (6)

All the tests which stemmed from the faulty assumption that there is increased "abnormality" during the full moon seem to prove there is no correlation. So does this mean that the moon truly does not affect the body and mind? Perhaps instead one should look at the way in which the moon, like it's counterpart, the sun, affects plant life. In 1967, the maximum spring plant growth was found to occur directly after the new moon as well as after the full moon. Another study conducted in 1972 set out to look at the fluctuations in temperatures and growth of seven plant species, but found that there was no correlation between them, instead discovering that a "lunar rhythm" caused bursts in the growth rate of the stem. (7)

Unfortunately, the relationship between plants and the moon is not as interesting as the relationship between humans and the moon. Not unless you're a botanist. But why the association between craziness and the moon? There is not a bit of scientific proof out there that supports peopleís assumptions about this age-old correlation. It is an ancient science that has not been replaced with the newer theories. Although the hypotheses have been disproved, the relationships between the full moon and its stereotypical effects on the Earth remain in place. Since no new hypotheses have been formed to take the old assumptionsí place, people continue to believe in the arcane. Perhaps it would only be fair if the moon had control over something on Earth. After all, the sun is so vital we would all die without it. The moon, however, holds no sway in the scientific prospective of the world, but in peopleís minds, it functions as such a key figure that it would be foolish to say the full moon completely and utterly lacks control over events. Instead of directly studying the moonís influence on the world, the power of common belief should be investigated so that no one forgets that when people feel the same way about something, they creat a large enough mental influence that they can sometimes will the event they imagine into a reality. That may sound way out there, but it is completely possible. I was taught from my birth that if I only believe in myself, I can do anything. Why wouldnít the same be true of a whole group of people believing in universal stereotypes? I know I felt a little spooked when I read my friendís email, immediately thinking that I better be careful in case Iím around when someone loses his or her temper, or I lose my own by accident. You never can tell what will happen when you're just as worried about things going wrong as everyone else is. Instead, a person should just remember to keep on the sunny side of the moon and make sure you enjoy a long, moonlit walk, just as safe as any other night of the lunar phase.


WWW Sources

1)CSICOP - The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal

2)Skepticís Dictionary: full moon and lunar effects

3)Medical/Full Moon Fun

4)Scientists shed light on full moon myths

5)New Standard

6)FAQ, sci.astro newsgroup, interesting collection of short essays

7)AOL Hometown

8)Boston Globe Health Sense



Comments made prior to 2007

I just read the paper on lunar effects. i am not an educated person, or a scientist; however I am someone who has paid attention to his life.


I don't look for things to happen on a full moon. It actually isn't even on my mind most of the time. However, when something big does ahppen in my life, I go to the calender and see where the full moon falls.


There are many events in my life that have been near the full/ new moons. I don't agree that just because science can't prove that there is a direct effect on human mentall state that it doesn't have anyy effect.


There are many farmers who will tell you how important the full moon is, not just when planting, but also setting fence posts...


I am not sayiing that everytime there is a full moon that people act crazy. I amjust saying that I have witnessed in my life peoples behaviors being so uncharacteristic of them ... Jeff Hutchison, 28 February 2006 



There's nothing quite like a nice walk on a warm moonlit night, is there? The Moon is providing plenty of light, albeit an eerie light. In fact, you feel a little more alert, or even a little more alive. Now ask yourself, "Would I feel this way on a dark moonless night?" Would you feel the same energy? Would you even consider going for a walk? Perhaps, people who are emotionally sensitive, or stressed, or even unstable, are more strongly affected by this energy. Besides, what is moon light, but reflected sun light? And what better energy source is there than sun light? Just something to think about ... Toby Stiles, 1 April 2007


Anonymous's picture

Full Moon

You didn't address the theory of extra ions in the air from the moon affect behavior. I've never even heard of the theory of the "tides in the body"
but I have heard/read much about the ions in the air.

Anonymous's picture

tides in the body!

in answer to this yes the theory goes that water in our oceans contains the same amount of salt as in the human body and as the tides are governed by the moon so comes the theory that we are, i must add also that dyslexic people tend to be more affected by a full moon rather than non-dyslexic people, speaking from experience.