Lunar effect

The term lunar effect refers to the unfounded belief that there is correlation between specific stages of the Earth's lunar cycle and deviant behavior in human beings that cannot simply be explained by variation in light levels. There is no scientific reason to expect this to be the case,[1][2] and in spite of numerous studies, no significant lunar effect on human behaviour has been established.[1] Scholars debunking the effect sometimes refer to it as the Transylvanian hypothesis or the Transylvanian effect to emphasise its fanciful nature.[3]Origins of the belief Examples of the belief have been found in ancient Assyrian/Babylonian writing.[1] The term lunatic itself was derived in Latin from the word luna, meaning "moon".[4] [edit]Modern belief in the lunar theory [edit]Fertility and blood loss It is widely believed that the moon has a relationship with fertility due to the corresponding human menstrual cycle, which averages 28 days.[1] However, no connection between lunar rhythms and menstrual onset has been conclusively shown to exist, and the similarity in length between the two cycles is most likely coincidental.[5] It is sometimes claimed that surgeons used to refuse to operate on the full moon because of the increased risk of death of the patient through blood loss.[6] In October 2009, British politician David Tredinnick asserted that during a full moon "[s]urgeons will not operate because blood clotting is not effective and the police have to put more people on the street.".[7] A spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons said they would "laugh their heads off" at the suggestion they could not operate at the full moon.[8] [edit]Law and order Senior police officers in Brighton announced in June 2007 that they were planning to deploy more officers over the summer to counter trouble they believe is linked to the lunar cycle.[9] Similarly, police in Ohio and Kentucky have blamed temporary rises in crime on the full moon.[10][11][12] In January 2008, New Zealand's Justice Minister Annette King suggested that a spate of stabbings in the country could have been caused by the lunar cycle.[13] [edit]Politics It was suggested that the full moon might have influenced voter behavior in the US 2000 presidential election.[14] [edit]Reasons put forward for the belief Believers in the lunar theory suggest several different mechanisms by which the behaviour of the moon could influence the behaviour of human beings. A common suggestion is that, since the moon affects large bodies of water like the ocean, we should expect the moon to have an analogous effect on human beings, whose bodies contain a great deal of water.[1][2] However, this is a misconception that fails to take into account differences in scale. The tidal force is in fact very weak and should be expected to exercise no more gravitational pull on the human body than a mosquito.[1] A further suggestion is that positive ions increase in abundance during a full moon and that this should be expected to influence human behavior. However, this is a pseudo-scientific claim. Not only is the increase in frequency extremely slight (much smaller than that caused by air conditioning and air pollution),[2] but ionic charge—positive or negative—has no effect on human behavior, and no physiological effect other than static electric shock.[15] Believers (David Tredinnick being a prominent example) often support their claims by noting that many police officers and nurses have observed a lunar effect in the course of their work. To the extent that nurses and police officers do indeed claim to observe patterns, this is most likely to be explained in terms of confirmation bias: People notice if something dramatic happens during a full moon, but do not notice when nothing dramatic happens;[2] furthermore, dramatic occurrences that do not occur during full moons are typically not counted as evidence against the belief.[1] Believers are further bolstered in their belief through communal reinforcement: The more people talk about the effect, the more people notice spurious relationships.