The Effects of Weather on Western Campus Freshmen

This topic submitted by Katie Dubois, Christina Jones, Kate D'Elia, Matt Bokar (DuboisKE@miamioh.edu) at 3:11 pm on 12/6/01. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Dorsey


Introduction-

Background Information-
One of the major factors for our initial interest in this topic was Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a disorder causing people to become depressed and unstable when they are not surrounded by sunshine and warm temperatures. This disorder is also know as winter depression, and it is proven that 86% of the SAD population is women. Also, 96% of people with SAD have previously experienced some kind of bipolar disorder. Symptoms include decreased activity, increased appetites, sadness, anxiety, etc. (www.rci.rugers.edu/~charlesf/mood1.html)

Objective-
Our research lab arose from the desire to learn more about what types of stigma can affect the moods of human beings. As college students we realize that individuals, such as ourselves, experience various types of emotional moods and feelings over an extensive amount of time. With this in mind we choose to survey students rather then professors and other adults for the lab research. Also, looking farther into the college student lifestyle we chose to research the affects of weather on the student’s moods due to continual exposure to our outside environment. From these decisions our intention is to determine if and how the weather affects the moods of certain individuals over the course of the day. This will include temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, humidity, etc. We will consider outside factors and situations that will also affect the subject’s mood, which will consist of day-to-day conflicts and current events. These factors will be integrated in our data since we realize that these outside forces are capable of influencing a person’s mood either positively or negatively. Also, we understand that they can completely negate the beneficial or destructive effects weather conditions can have on human beings’ moods. However, we believe that weather maintains a more secure impact in correlation with human behavior.

Hypothesis-
We believe that human beings are affected greatly by weather. From our own personal experiences, we have noticed that sunlight and other climatic phenomena serve to alter the way people feel and act towards others. We assume, therefore, precipitation and overcast weather have the ability to dampen our spirits while sunlight and clear skies can actually brighten your day.

Methods and Materials –

-Charts
-Periodicals (internet, newspaper, and weather programs)
-Calendar
-Writing implement
-Thermometer
-Personality questionnaires
-Background questionnaires

We hope to prove our hypothesis through testing 20 individuals every other weekday. These dates will be marked on a calendar for better organization. From these 20 subjects we will test 10 females as well as 10 males. Again these participants will be freshman college students who fall within the 18-19 year old age group. The four members of our lab group will survey five test subjects Monday, Wednesday and Friday of every other week on how they are feeling. The remaining weeks, we will question the same people Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The period of observation will be between the mid afternoon times of 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. This is the turning point in the day when the majority of individuals are at their most vigorous level of activity. The age group being tested is especially lively during this time of day due to the fact that they are attending class or participating socially or actively in certain events. We have designed a scale to measure moods with 1 representing the worst possible emotions and 5 symbolizing how excellent the subject feels. Our chart will be used in reporting this information as well as a compilation of periodicals providing information on the day-to-day weather. The precipitation and cloud cover forecasts will be recorded on the data sheets in order to track the effects of weather on moods. We will be recording data from Tuesday, September 25 through Friday, November 16, and conclude with a total of 20 days of observation. We chose these dates because we wanted to observe a wide range of seasonal changes beginning with the warm end of summer and the beginnings of winter.


Test Group-

We have selected twenty freshmen that reside on Western Campus, half of which are male and half are female. They represent a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and personality types, while their daily schedules also differ from one another. We selected these twenty individuals since we wanted a unique group of subjects, but we also wanted to have some control by choosing all the students to live on western campus. We believed that by selecting students from Western Campus, we would be testing students who are affected by the same situations since they all live together and take the same type of classes. In expanding on the disorder of SAD, we are researching this subject to include more individuals that live geographically all over the United States, rather than narrowing our testing group to the Midwest region. For example, we have included individuals from Florida, California, Texas, and Minnesota. We also expect to examine any differentiation between males and females as compared to the SAD theory.


Sources of Error-


Before we began this endeavor, we all realized that it would be nearly impossible for us to be able to conclude with perfect, unadulterated results. However, we felt that the positive aspects of this study far outweighed the sources of error. The first of these would be events occurring in the lives of each of our test group members. Receiving a bad grade on a test definitely has the ability to alter one’s mood, just as much as a good grade does. Additionally, the size of one’s workload on a particular day can deprive one of sleep, thus making the person tired or cranky as well. Next, the scale we have created may have one meaning to one person of our test group and a completely opposite meaning to another. By this we mean that a rating of a 1 to one person may be the equivalent of a 2 or 3 to another. Subsequently, our data may be somewhat skewed. Furthermore, it would be far too difficult for the members of our lab group to determine the emotions of our test group. Therefore, we are having the members of our test group rate their own emotions, which may also lead them to lie or exaggerate about how they are feeling. Finally, we anticipated the change in weather to be far greater during our testing period than it actually was. We hoped to determine whether the decrease in temperature played a role in people’s emotions. However, the variation from mid-September to late November was hardly noticeable, thus rendering any conclusions about this topic impossible.

Analysis-

In examining our data, we have come to the conclusion that weather does have an impact on how we feel. Of course, many outside factors have a great influence on our moods, and we have agreed that these dynamics have a stronger influence than does the weather. However, we discovered a noticeable trend between pleasant weather and good moods, as well as unpleasant weather and bad moods. Subsequently, we believe that there is no direct correlation between the weather and people’s moods. We also concluded that Architecture and Interior Design students were in a worse disposition than Western majors when a due date was coming up. Since all four of us are in the Architecture Department, we understand the stress our Architecture and Interior Design participants were experiencing. We also investigated the difference between the effects of weather on males and females. This disparity is much less perceptible than that between Architect majors and Western majors.

Suggestions for Further Exploration-

This lab investigation would be interesting to continue over the course of an entire year in order to observe every form of weather and its effects on people. Also, it would be fascinating to test whether age plays a role in how much weather affects people’s moods. Because young children do not have nearly as many responsibilities as college students, we think it might be intriguing to test a younger demographic than we did in this investigation.

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