The purpose of this lab was to determine if there was a significant correlation between the lunar cycle and social activities and alcohol intake among Miami University college students living in dorms. We hypothesized that social activity and alcohol intake are directly linked to the stages of the moon. We hypothesized that decreased social activity and alcohol intake are associated with the full moon while increased social activity and alcohol intake are associated with the new moon.
College is a time when young people get their first taste of freedom. During the first six weeks of the new school year, we observed that many of our dorm mates participated in alcohol related social activities. We became interested in how these activities correlate with the cycles of the moon. Through studying the drinking and social patterns of our dorm mates, we hope to determine whether humanís social activities and alcohol intake are directly affected by nature.
There is an abundance of studies relevant to our subject. Evidence relating to lunar rhythms is present in numerous studies. Two different main approaches to the rhythms of the body are present in the scientific community. The first is the theory of circadian rhythms, proposed by Dr. Franz Halberg at the University of Minnesota. Incorporated in this theory is the idea that the humans, and other living organisms, possess a mean of regulating cycles. These cycles include the solar-day rhythms (24 hours), lunar-day rhythms (24.8 hours), lunar-synodic monthly rhythms (29.5 days) and yearly rhythms (Lieber, 48). Along with this study, a stipulation of disturbances caused by outside substances has been added. Heavy water, dalinomycin (an antibiotic), lithium and alcohol are all known to change the natural rhythms occurring in the body (Lieber, 48). Dr. Frank Brown is recognized as being the chief proponent of the second theory, the extrinsic timing theory of biological rhythms. His theory states that cosmic cycles influence organismal activity (Brown, 138). For example, the tides influence when the time is best for aquatic organisms to be active or to feed. It is therefore hypothesized that the lunar response is present in land animals as a consequence of their evolution from marine to land-dwelling creatures (Lieber, 50).
Bodily mechanisms were studied in an effort to determine the influence of circadian rhythms. In 1866, William Ogle discovered noted that there was a significant fluctuation in human body temperature that varied in relation to day and night (Moore-Ede, 3). Many corporations have conducted studies on worker-effectiveness and its relations to the body clock. Workers were found to be drastically less effective when working at nighttime. Mid-night shift workers were less productive than the daytime workers (Biological Rhythms, 2). The workers that were forced to work against their circadian rhythms were noted to have experienced sleep deprivation, fatigue, familial, and social problems (Nelson, 90). These instances provide evidence for the presence of circadian rhythms.
Others argue whether the presence of light from the moon influences the behavior of animals. The homing behavior of eels increased during the new and first quarter moon (Lamothe et. al., 398). Another study in Spain suggests that this increase in homing activity in European eels is due to the darkness that is related to these two phases of the moon (LaBar et. al., 115). The debate over whether the homing behavior is directly related to the lunar phases or the lack of light created by these phases continues.
Since lunar phases are thought to effect animal behavior, some scientists are exploring their effect on human behavior. According to a study done by Georgia State University Department of Psychology, lunar rhythms had a 26% impact on alcohol intake. This impact was demonstrated by an increase in alcohol intake during the new moon and a decrease during the full moon (Castro et. al., 439).
With the focus of alcohol related studies in mind, sociocultural factors on drinking were researched. Socioeconomically, college educated persons are more apt to drink than those with only a high school education. Gender studies show that men are more likely to use and abuse alcohol than women, but the womenís contention is on the rise. Urban and rural comparisons show that urban residents are more likely to drink than rural residents. There was also a link between geographic region, demonstrating that people living in the Northeast and along the West coast are more apt to drink than people who live in the South and Midwest (Zastrow, 459).
Along with alcohol intake in social situations, we will also examine romantic, friendly, work-related, etc. social interactions and the lack thereof.
Our method included surveying 75 students on Main campus and Western. Each student participant received a calendar survey with three questions to answer every day. The answers were marked on the specific days of the week on the calendar. The subjects were asked to fill out this survey every day for two months. This calendar survey was the most important aspect of our experiment, as it is the sole source of our data.
The questions that the subjects are asked to answer reveal what kind of social event, if any, the student attended; how many drinks, if any, they had consumed; and how many people they were with, if any. The social interactions that we are interested in are romantic, friendly, work-related, or other interactions or the lack thereof.
To differentiate the population, participants are also asked to indicate their gender, dorm name, and major. The halls surveyed are only representative of the North Quad, and the Western Living-Learning Community of Miami University.
The statistical aspects of our methodology left minimal room for inaccuracy. Due to the two different communities studied, however, North Quad, and Western Quad, there may be some significant differences.
In an effort to keep our results from being skewed, the surveys were anonymous, the subjects surveyed were random, and we have developed standards for our questions. Our experimental design yielded accurate results, except in instances where participants lied or forgot to write their answers down. In order to prevent the subjects from lying, we made the survey anonymous, which hopefully increased their comfort with answering potentially damaging questions. We also suggested they place the paper somewhere where they will see it everyday. This will hopefully remind the subjects to answer the questions, thereby increasing the accuracy of our results. We sent weekly e-mails to the participants to remind them to complete the surveys.
Upon the passing of two months, we collected the calendar surveys and compiled the data. We compared the lunar calendar to the calendar surveys that we have collected and looked for any significant correlations between the two.
During our teaching day in class we used a Power Point presentation to present in an organized manner. We began by assigning each student a stereotypical social role (boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, workaholic, lonely loser, party animal) by passing out cards with these designations. We then asked the class to form a group with the other people in their same social role. In these groups, we asked them to define the social activities of people in these roles. Then we explained the idea behind our study and our hypothesis. In these groups we asked them to form their own way of collecting and analyzing the data needed to test our hypothesis. As a person in their assigned social role, students were then asked to brainstorm causes, other than the moon cycles, that may affect their social activities in those roles. Following this activity, we asked for some feedback and/or suggestions for our experiment.
Only twenty-four of the 75 surveys that were passed out were completed. We began by compiling all of this data into a notebook. We used a page for each day, and wrote down the results as they appeared on the surveys. Many surveys were incomplete, and we indicated this with a dash in the notebook. Then we utilized the lunar calendar to find the days in which the moon had been new, waxing, full and waning. We decided to use two days before and two days after the moon for our survey. Including more than these 5 days would not have been useful because then the next moon phase would be infringed upon. There was two of each moon phase recorded, in order to eliminate the probability of variables disrupting the data. We used both moon phases in our analysis. Utilizing StatView, we entered the moon phases with their corresponding results. We found that we had to group the numbers in order to statistically analyze our results. We divided the number of people up into 4 categories. These categories were: alone (hung out with 0 people), couple (1 other person), small group (2 to 10 other people), and large group (more than 10 people). The reasons for hanging out were divided into friendly, romantic and work related. For alcohol intake, the grouping was zero (0 drinks consumed), small amount (1 to 2 drinks), medium amount (3 to 4 drinks), and large amount (5 or more drinks). We ran this information through StatView, and performed a T-test. Our resulting P-values were as follows:
Moon phase/group size .0351 statistically significant
Moon phase/social situation .9865 statistically insignificant
Moon phase/alcohol intake .6166 statistically insignificant
Discussion and Conclusions:
We accepted our hypothesis that students are more likely to hang out in large groups during the new moon and less likely during the full moon. Our study proved this hypothesis because the p-value proved that our data was statistically significant. We found our result of a correlation between the new moon and large social groups to fit the results of the study done by Georgia State University Department of Psychology. They found that more amounts of alcohol were consumed during the new moon, and less in the full moon. The literary evidence of biological connections of humans to the lunar cycle at present is vague. We believe that by some means, humans are affected internally by the lunar cycle in regard to social activity. Because of the social relationship to alcohol intake, it could be hypothesized that alcohol consumption and group activity are connected. In this manner, our study could relate to that of Georgia State University. We would be curious to see the relationship between alcohol intake and group activity is as hypothesized. It is not worth comparing these things with the present data, because we believe that it may not properly represent the students surveyed due to the variables. Our study indicates that the students surveyed were more likely to hang out in large groups during the new moon, and less likely during the full moon. It is difficult to examine the alcohol intake results because there are a variety of variables that could have impacted this. Because Miami is a college, drinking is not uniform over days. Because only 24 surveys were returned, and only 4 were from main campus, the data represents primarily Western campus.
Our hypothesis is rejected for the study on the correlations between alcohol intake and the phases of the moon. There could be many explanations for this. Only females returned their surveys, therefore only females were surveyed. The completion of surveys alone was a factor that could have easily swayed the results. Stereotypically, the people who completed the surveys are those who are responsible people. These may in fact be the same people who may not drink, or have different drinking patterns than those who are not as responsible. There is no way for us to be able to gauge this. Because Miami is a college, drinking is concentrated more on weekends and is not uniform over all days. Because only 24 surveys were returned, and only 4 were from main campus, the data represents primarily Western campus. While the alcohol and activity data was statistically insignificant, it is entirely possible that not enough data was taken. More surveys of a broader base of people should be taken in the future.
In our study, we also found no significant correlation between the types of social interaction and the phases of the moon. Since we didnít collect a large amount of data, we may not have been able to find accurate results.
There are other problems with our study in general. The days that fell into the selected moons that we collected data from included days in which activities were confined for students like midterms, Thanksgiving, and Parents Weekend. During these times, caused by no part of the moon phases, students were more likely to spend time alone working or with their families. They would also be less likely to drink during these times. In order to eliminate these kinds of problems, we could have studied students from different universities and non-students as well. This would eliminate these limiting days over the entire sampling population.
The correlation between moon phase and group size has many implications. Miami could sponsor their activities during the new moon to ensure greater attendance. Because of the nature of large groups on a university campus, they are likely to be found at parties. Added police could be put on duty on nights of the new moon, and less on full moon nights.
In conclusion, we found it interesting that group activity among Miami females was correlated to the lunar cycle. We would like to know the biological mechanisms that maintain this correlation. As a group, we have gained respect for surveys because of the amount of time that is required to produce data, and analyze it.
Biological Rhythms: Implications for the Worker. Office of Technology Assessment. Sept. 1991, 29-34.
Brown, B. Stress and the Art of Biofeedback. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.
DeCastro, John M.; Pearcey, Sharon M. Lunar Rhythms of the Meal and Alcohol Intake of Humans. Psychology and Behavior. Vol. 57, No. 3, 439-444. 1995.
La Bar, G.W.; J.A. Hernando Casal; C.F. Delgado. Local Movement and inshore population size of European eels. Env. Bio. Fish. 19:111-117.
Lamonthe, Peter J.; Gallagher, Mary; Chivers, Douglas; Moring, John R. Homing and Movement of yellow-phase American eels in freshwater ponds. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 58: 393-399. 2000.
Lieber, Arnold L. M.D. The Lunar Effect. Garden City, NY: Doubleday; 1978.
Moore-Ede, M.C.; Sulzman, F.M.; Fuller, C.A.; The Clocks That Time Us. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.
Nelson, R.E. Mechanisms of Seasonal Cycles of Behavior. Annual Review of Psychology. 41:81-108; 1990.
Zastrow, Charles; Kirst-Ashman, Karen. Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment. Chicago: Nelson-Hall; 1994. 458-9.
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