The Situationist

Archive for August 17th, 2007

The Moon and Your Emotions

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 17, 2007

The MoonDespite its barrenness, the Moon has been a fixation for humans since the origin of our species. The Romans and Greeks, for instance, thought it was a goddess. Much more recently, it spawned a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. It has also provided great fodder for werewolf stories and the like.

Aside from its cultural and political ramifications, the moon affects the Earth in physical ways. Most meaningful, it’s gravitational pull, which varies depending on the distance between the Earth and Moon, helps to create our oceans’ tides. This link provides a layperson’s description of the phenomenon:

Tides are created because the Earth and the moon are attracted to each other, just like magnets are attracted to each other. The moon tries to pull at anything on the Earth to bring it closer. But, the Earth is able to hold onto everything except the water. Since the water is always moving, the Earth cannot hold onto it, and the moon is able to pull at it. Each day, there are two high tides and two low tides. The ocean is constantly moving from high tide to low tide, and then back to high tide. There is about 12 hours and 25 minutes between the two high tides.

While there is uncertainty as to what the Earth would be like without the Moon, it’s clear that it would be a very different place, with very dissimilar wind and water patterns. So the Moon matters a great deal to Earth and all of its life.

But does it matter to us, individually? Some believe that the moon’s varying gravitational pull affects our brains and bodies in ways that we do not appreciate. After-all, the human body is mostly water, so if the moon moves bodies of water, why not us? If this sounds crazy, keep in mind that many believe it to be true, including those who are highly-educated. An article by Alina Iosif and Bruce Ballon of the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry explains:

A study by Rotton and Kelly in 1985 showed that 50% of university students believed that people act strangely during a full moon. In 1995, Vance reported that as many as 81% of mental health professionals believed that the full moon alters individual behaviour.

Perhaps these beliefs are influenced by some in the scientific community, including psychiatrist Arnold Lieber, who authored the controversial “Lunar Effects: Biological Tides and Human Emotions.” In it, he concluded that a full moon leads to higher homicide rates and other nefarious effects. His conclusions, writes Chris Francesani and Brittany Bacon on ABC News, are supported by others:

Studies have found that cops and hospital workers are among the strongest believers in the notion that more crime and trauma occur on nights when the moon is full . . . Dr. David Mandell of the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh and some colleagues studied existing data on health-care myths and did a 2005 study of area nurses. He said he found that 69 percent of surgical nurses in his study believed that a full moon led to more chaos and patients that night.

Now the bad news for those who believe: Most scientific evidence indicates that the moon does not appreciably influence our bodies or minds. As Iosif and Ballon write,

Not everyone realizes that, although the moon is able to move oceans, this is achieved only because the moon’s gravity acts over the 12 800-km diameter of the earth, which pulls back with a comparable force. But the moon exerts no influence on smaller bodies of water such as lakes and even some seas, and the difference between a person’s weight in the presence of the moon’s gravity and his or her weight if there were no moon is “less than the effect of a mosquito on one’s shoulder.”

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To read a study by physicist Robert Seeberger on how there is no connection between lunar activity and industrial accidents, click here. To read other accounts indicating no connection between the Moon and human behavior, see University of Florida psychologist James Rotton’s Moonshine and a post on Psychology and Crime News discussing the research of University of Washington bioengineering professor Eric Chudler.

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