• Lunar Effects: Are We Naturally Crazy or Just Crazy Once A Month?

    This post is part of a series of guest posts on GPS by the undergraduate and graduate students in my Science vs. Pseudoscience course. As part of their work for the course, each student had to demonstrate mastery of the skill of “Educating the Public about Pseudoscience.” To that end, each student has to prepare two 1,000ish word posts on a particular pseudoscience topic, as well as run a booth on-campus to help reach people physically about the topic.


    Lunar Effects: Are We Naturally Crazy or Just Crazy Once A Month?   by Cathlina Smith

    My mom works at a very busy dentist’s office. Many times, after a crazy day, she will come home and says something along the lines of, “Must have been a full moon last night because all the lunatics are out!” Then she pours some wine and attempts to relax while I shake my head at her naivety. Regrettably, my mom is not alone in her beliefs. This type of belief, that crazy people come out during the full moon, is called the lunar effect. Are full moon days really that much worse than other days? Is there really a causation between the shape of the moon on the way that people act?

    To begin let’s look at the parts of the myth. During the night, the moon comes out as the sun goes down. The moon goes through different phases each month. The lunar phases change as the moon orbits the Earth. Unfortunately, the poor moon gets blamed for everything wrong with people as it goes through these phases (including how people vote!). The main thing that gets attributed to the moon is “crazy” people. The people that tend to “come out” on a full moon are said to be more violent, more confrontational, and just plain ignorant. Some individuals just can’t believe that there are unruly people in the world and need a way to justify the way people act. What better way than to blame the moon! Every person who works with the public will attest to this.

    Even the media contributes to the myth of the moon making it more believable to the uneducated masses. I like to think that dealing with the public in general is maddening enough even without the effects of the moon. It is most likely sites like the Spiritual Science Research Foundation that seem legitimate and have the word “science” in them that get people to believe in the myth. It also explains how to use spiritual remedies to protect oneself from the harm of the oh-so-dangerous moon.

    So, how does the moon exert it’s supposed effects on people? Some have said that the moon seems to have an impact on sleep cycles in some individuals, therefore causing them to be temporarily insane but this has yet to be verified by real scientific methods. Another explanation for the mystical mischief of the moon is the tides in that the gravitational pull makes us feel lopsided and therefore driving us mad. Considering that the sun also has an effect on tides, I would think many people would be crazy every day and not just on a full moon. Perhaps they really are crazy and those who believe the myth just do not notice it because they are looking for coincidences and trying to answer the question of “Why are people idiots?” The answer is too simple to comprehend; “Because there are idiots in the world.”

    She’s happy because SCIENCE!

    Now the fun part: Science! Science is great in that scientists can often find the answer to many of life’s questions that can be experimentally tested. Scientists use the scientific method and do many laborious studies to come to a conclusion, rather than just relying on our highly fallible brains. Guess what else science can do? Prove that myths are false! Hooray for science!

    Alright, let’s get down to it. According to this site, the myth may have been somewhat true (or at least more believable) at some point in the past due to there being limited light at night; in other words, the full moon’s brightness actually kept people awake more than they were used to. This caused sleep deprivation and an increase in madness. In current times this doesn’t really fly because we have electricity and the brightness of the full moon isn’t really that much more noticeable than any other phase, particularly in urban areas. A study was done on crisis center employees and it was determined that the phase of the moon showed no real impact on lunacy than any other time. Even though scientific evidence has debunked this myth, people still choose to believe in such claims. I say we just leave the moon out of our problems and just let him orbit in peace!

    “I just wish people would stop blaming me for all of their problems!”

    In conclusion, myths are fun to hear and even more fun to read about. However, it is important to not take things at face value and really look into the research that was done. There will always be claims and justifications as to why people act the way they do. More people need to have a better understanding of people’s behavior during everyday life and not just when the moon is full. Education and being willing to have an open mind is the only way to achieve that understanding.

    Category: ConspiracyMental HealthPseudosciencePsychologyScienceTeaching


    Article by: Caleb Lack

    Caleb Lack is the author of "Great Plains Skeptic" on SIN, as well as a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher. His website contains many more exciting details, visit it at www.caleblack.com