Why We Blame Strange Events On The Full Moon, Even Though We Know Better

03/31/2015 02:23 pm ET | Updated Mar 31, 2015
Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt

Have you ever experienced something out of the ordinary and found yourself thinking, "It must be the full moon"? You probably need to read this.

For centuries, the moon has been a socially acceptable explanation for any number of odd events. Some hospital workers even believe that there's a correlation between the full moon and the number of people admitted to emergency rooms or babies born.

But a new data analysis confirms what scientists have long known: The idea that lunar cycles exert any meaningful influence on human affairs is sheer lunacy.

The study, published earlier this month in the journal Nursing Research, revisited a body of research that found no link between moon cycles and hospital admissions or births. The studies also showed no correlation between moon cycles and patterns of criminal behavior, menstruation, depression, car accidents, surgery outcomes and other events sometimes thought to be associated with the full moon.

"Analysis of the data shows conclusively that the moon does not influence the timing of hospital admissions. This result is consistent with dozens of other studies spanning several decades," the author of the study, UCLA astronomer Jean-Luc Margot, told The Huffington Post in an email. "The Moon is innocent."

So why is it still so common for rational people to blame strange events or unfortunate occurrences on astrological happenings? Margot suggests that it has something to do with a common thinking error known as the "confirmation bias," which causes people to interpret information in a way that supports their pre-existing beliefs.

"We have a tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms our beliefs and to ignore data that contradict our beliefs," Margot said. "When life is hectic on the day of a full moon, many people remember the association because it confirms their belief. But hectic days that do not correspond with a full moon are promptly ignored and forgotten because they do not reinforce the belief."

But these beliefs aren't just frivolous, Margot explained -- they can be dangerous. Confirmation bias can fuel a number of other dangerous ideas, such as climate change denial and anti-vaccine movements.

"Beliefs often dictate actions, and the societal costs of flawed beliefs are enormous," Margot said. "Take the example of the anti-vaccine movement. Vaccine-preventable diseases are killing people because of beliefs that are out of step with scientific facts."

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