Why The Moon Is Sometimes Associated With Madness

The Roman goddess of the Moon, Luna, shares the prefix of the English word �lunatic.� The Greek philosopher Aristotle as well as the Roman historian Pliny the Elder both believed that the brain was greatly influenced by the moon because it is �the moistest� organ. The Moon controls the waters of the Earth, so it is still sometimes hypothesized in modern times that it can control humans, who are about 80% made up of water.

Police officers and Hospital administrators are among the staunchest believers in the full moon lunacy effect. They claim to see more crimes, hospital admissions, suicides, homicides, car accidents, and other strange events during a full moon than at any other time during the month. In the U.K., a number of police departments even added extra police officers during nights with a full moon in 2007 in order to deal with the supposed higher crime rates.

According to modern research though, this general paranoia over full moon effects is fictitious. The first reason is because the gravitational effects of the moon are far too small to have any effect on the human brain. The astronomer George Abell of the University of California, Los Angeles said that a mosquito sitting on a person�s arm would exert a greater gravitational pull on them than the moon could. Secondly, the Moon can only affect an open body of water. While oceans and lakes can feel its gravitational pull, a contained source of water like the human body will not. In addition, the gravitational effect of the Moon is just as strong during a new moon, when it is invisible, as it is during a full moon, when it is lit up.

Perhaps the most convincing argument against the hypothesis is that there is no evidence for it. The statistical procedure of meta-analysis, where multiple studies are combined into one large analysis, was used to test the effects of the Moon on human behavior. In this study, they found that full moons are completely unrelated to crimes, suicides, and other similar events. One study in 1982 did point to a positive relationship between car accidents and full moons. However, during the time of the study, full moons coincided with weekends, when more people are out on the road at night. When this factor was eliminated, the lunar effect disappeared. Regardless, many officers in law enforcement and hospital workers hold fast to their beliefs.

If there is no real evidence behind this lunacy effect, then it seems strange that it is so well known and widespread. Media seems to be a factor, with the numerous horror movies portraying full moons and subsequent crimes. Humans also remember events better than a lack of events, referred to by the illusory correlation explanation. If something strange happens during a full moon, then a person is more likely to remember it and also tell someone about it. If nothing happens on a full moon, then the night is forgotten. This accounts for how the myth is kept alive today, but it does not explain how it began.

Psychiatrist Charles L. Raison claims that the lunar lunacy effect started because it held a piece of truth. Prior to the availability of lighting, the full moon perhaps kept people awake at night. Since sleep deprivation causes erratic behavior, especially in people with psychological disorders like the bipolar disorder, this could have been the origin of the effect. Perhaps not, but in the modern age it doesn�t seem to hold much truth anymore.

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