Traditionally, people have believed that the lunar cycle affects human behavior; more specifically, it has been thought that the lunar cycle phases can cause odd behavior among people. This odd behavior may often be criminal in nature. Through this lab, we hope to determine whether there is a correlation between the lunar cycle and criminal behavior. We hypothesize that all criminal behavior, excluding alcohol, drug, and minor traffic violations, increases during the moon’s first and last quarters.
There are several possible ways in which the moon may control our emotions. Some of the hypotheses claim that this control has to do with the changes in the amount of moonlight during different stages of the lunar cycle, the gravitational pull of the moon on our bodies, and the changes in the amounts of ions that bombard the earth at different times during the lunar cycle (Culver, et. al.). We believe that the most probable reason why the moon may affect human behavior is contained in a hypothesis that says that the levels of the ozone in the air we breathe fluctuate according to the lunar cycle (Culver et. al., 687). Culver et. al. maintain that “…it is now known that ozone is a threat to health and well-being (Evans & Campbell, 1983)” and that “recent studies have uncovered reliable associations between ozone levels and undesirable states and behavior, such as hostility (Jacobs, Evans, Catalano, and Dooley, 1984), depression (Evans, Jacobs, Dooley, and Catalano, 1987), sex crimes (Rotton, 1982a), family disturbances (Rotton and Frey, 1985), and psychiatric emergencies (Rotton and Frey, 1984)” (687). Therefore, we created the hypothesis that criminal activity is highest during the first and third quarters of the moon, which coincide with the period of time in which ozone levels in the atmosphere are highest. G.M. Shah, in his article, “Lunar Influence on Atmospheric Ozone,” hypothesizes that the levels of ozone in the atmosphere are connected to the lunar cycle. The connection hinges upon the moon’s influence on the tide, which also scatters particles in the atmosphere. When the particles are scattered, they destroy ozone. These particles are scattered about the atmosphere more during the new and full moons, so ozone levels are higher around the first and third quarters of the moon. If our hypothesis is true, then there will be crime peaks on the first and third quarters, when ozone levels are high.
We decided to study criminal behavior as it relates to the lunar cycle because it is an aspect of our being that we do not completely understand. It is a fascinating idea that something approximately 384,300 kilometers away can have control over our actions.
Other people have already attempted to tackle the question of how behavior is related to the moon and have arrived at varied conclusions. For example, studies by Stephen Armstrong and David Bamber support the idea that the lunar cycle affects human behavior, in that people are prone to be more violent during one of the four lunar cycles. On the other hand, a study by Roger Dobson stated that the lunar cycle has no violent affect on human behavior.
DeCastro studied abnormal psychiatric and criminal behavior and found that psychotic behavior occurs more during the full and new moons, and criminal behavior occurrences are more frequent three days before and after the full moon.
Raison found in his journal article that people “were more likely to develop manic symptoms around the full moon than any other time of the month” (p. 103).
Rotten proved through his research how previous articles written about the relationship between the lunar cycle and human behavior are wrong. There are a few relevant events that occurred, but less than 1% of these cases are due to the lunar cycle. Some of these misconceptions are due to not sampling enough varieties of cycles, inconstant studies, and “willingness to accept any departure from chance as evidence for lunar effect” (p. 286).
Wilkinson studied 782 patients and tried to find a link between anxiety and depression and the lunar cycle; however, no important statistics were discovered.
Cohen-Mansfield found the same hypothesis as others, that “differences were not statistically significant” (p. 611), although her study done on nursing home residents discovered the residents were more agitated during the new moon and last quarter than the full moon. The researchers determined that other factors come into play, like time and day of the week, and these may cause a difference in agitation.
Miller’s study tried to discover if work attendance and irregular behavior at work was influenced by a full moon. It was found that there was a very small decrease in absenteeism during a full moon. They concluded that the moon has a very small affect on human behavior today.
Culver attempted to uncover a link between the lunar effect and human behavior. He uses the hypotheses of ozone, moonlight, gravity, tidal force, geomagnetism, electromagnetism, weather, ELF waves, and ions to prove this, but none do this sufficiently. The scientists stress that researchers should take caution when trying to state that the lunar cycle affects human behavior.
Although much of the research led by others concludes that there is no link between the lunar cycle and criminal activity, we conducted our own research and came to our own conclusions. While our research did not result in a complete understanding of the ways in which the moon affects our everyday lives, it allowed us to study the possibility of a connection between the moon and human behavior in a scientific manner. We specifically decided to study the correlation between the moon and criminal behavior because it is a topic that has plagued the minds of police officers throughout the centuries, but has not been widely researched by scientists.
In order to conduct this experiment, we first looked up the dates of each phase of the moon (new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter) in a five-year period from 1995 to 1999. We chose this period of time because it was the most recent five-year block of time. Initially, our plan was to collect crime report data for those specific dates in the lunar cycle from three towns with different population sizes. We chose Oxford, Ohio, a small town; Hamilton, Ohio, a medium-sized town; and Cincinnati, Ohio, a city. We requested from the police department in Oxford a list of the crimes that occurred on important dates in the lunar cycle. We requested the same information from the Hamilton and Cincinnati police departments. The Oxford Police Department gave us their crime reports first. In the crime reports, the crimes from every day in the five years was listed, so we decided to include the days immediately preceding and following each one of the lunar phases. Hamilton’s police department then sent us their crime reports, which were substantially larger than Oxford’s crime reports. Unfortunately, Cincinnati’s police department did not respond to our request for information. However, the information we received from Oxford and Hamilton was very thorough, so our results after analyzing this data were still statistically sound without the extra information. The way we analyzed the two reports was to go through each significant day in the lunar cycle and highlight each of the crimes that fit the criteria for our study, which was outlined in the introduction. We then tallied up the numbers of crimes that occurred each day and analyzed our data on the computer program StatView. In order to determine whether the differences between the numbers of crimes committed during different times in the lunar cycle are due to chance alone, we conducted ANOVA tests, p-tests, and Fisher’s PLSD tests on the data. For each set of data, we also calculated the mean and standard deviation for the number of crimes committed during a typical day in each lunar phase. To compare the total crimes committed in each lunar phase, we created a cell line chart and a bar chart. Our results do not show any bias because they were directly from police reports and we excluded any crimes that may not have been caused by the effects of the lunar cycle. Since we were not surveying actual people, we could be sure the results would show less personal bias, because we were dealing with statistics as opposed to surveys from a random population.
Using StatView, we created charts giving us the means, p-values, standard deviations, and total number of crimes per lunar phase. Fisher’s test compared p-values between each of the lunar phases, and the ANOVA test gave us the p-value for all of the information. In Oxford, the mean number of crimes per day was 4.63 during the new moon, 4.27 during the full moon, 4.66 during the first quarter, and 4.29 during the last quarter. In Hamilton, on average there were 88.27 crimes per day during the first quarter, 88.86 during the new moon, 86.92 during the full moon, and 88.45 during the last quarter. In order to see if the short span of days around each lunar phase had increased crime rates, we included the day immediately before and after each lunar phase in Oxford. While the total number of crimes increased, the statistics changed little. During each phase of the moon, the total number of crimes occurring in each lunar cycle were relatively close. The totals in Oxford ranged from 262 crimes per phase to 290 crimes per phase. The totals in Hamilton ranged from 5380 crimes per phase to 5520 crimes per phase.
Through the ANOVA test we calculated the p-value for our three sets of data. We discovered that there was no significant difference between the number of crimes occurring during each phase of the lunar cycle. In Oxford, the p-value was .385, while in Hamilton the p-value was .938. As you can see, both p-values are higher than .05, and therefore show that there is no significant difference between the number of crimes in each lunar phase.
Apparently, through our research and analysis of data, we have found that there is no correlation between criminal activity and the lunar cycle, at least not in Oxford and Hamilton. We can assume that this trend would hold true if it was tested on a larger population. More thorough, encompassing studies could be conducted on different-sized populations in different cultures in a variety of environments in order to compare with and possibly support our findings. Our results actually mirror the results of studies completed by others before us, because other scientists have found that the lunar cycle does not affect aspects of behavior such as absenteeism, agitation among nursing home residents, or anxiety, depression, and manic behavior among humans. In retrospect, it would have been surprising to find a correlation between human behavior and the lunar cycle. The question of how human behavior is affected by the lunar cycle has been studied throughout history by humankind. Our project is simply another step in this same direction to attempt to achieve a better understanding of the relationship we have with the moon.
We’d like to thank the Records Department of the Oxford Police Department and the Hamilton Police Department. A special thanks is owed to Officer Don Taylor for his time and effort, and for this, he should be an Honorary Member of our group.
Armstrong, Stephen. “The moon has put me in a mad sort of mood”. The Daily Telegraph. p25. May 17, 2000.
Bamber, David. “Violent moods rise with the new moon”. Sunday Telegraph. p19. November 29, 1998.
Cohen-Mansfield, Jiska, Marcia S. Marx, and Perla Werner. “Full Moon: Does it Influence Agitated Nursing Home Residents?”. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Vol. 45 No. 54, pp. 611-614. July 1989.
Culver, Roger, James Rotton, and I.W. Kell. “Moon Mechanisms and Myths: A Critical Appraisal of Explanations of Purported Lunar Effects on Human Behavior”. Psychological Reports. Pp. 62, 684-687, 702-704. 1988.
DeCastro, John M. and Sharon M. Pearcey. “Lunar Rhythms of the Meal and Alcohol Intake of Humans”. Physiology & Behavior. Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 439-444. 1995.
Dobson, Roger. “Lunacy not linked to dark side of the moon”. The Independent. p3.
April 14, 1997.
Miller, Lynn E. and Joanne M. Sands. “Effects of Moon Phase and Other Temporal Variables on Absenteeism”. Psychological Reports. Pp. 69, 960-962. 1991.
Raison, Charles L., Haven M. Klein, and Morgan Steckler. “The Moon and Madness Reconsidered”. Journal of Affective Disorders. Pp. 99-106. 1999.
Rotton, James and I.W. Kelly. “Much Ado About the Full Moon: A Meta-Analysis of Lunar-Lunacy Research”. Psychological Bulletin. P. 97, 286-306.
Shah, G. M.. “Lunar Influence on Atmospheric Ozone”. Nature. Vol. 237, p.275. 1972.
Wilkinson, Greg, Marco Piccinelli, Stephen Roberts, Rocco Micciolo, and John Fry. “Lunar Cycle and Consultations for Anxiety and Depression in General Practice”. International Journal of Social Psychiatry. Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 29-34. 1997.
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