Why is the full moon myth so powerful?

22 Aug

I was reading this paper in the journal Teaching Psychology about how evidence can help dispel common myths about human behavior, when I came across this sentence:

“In the second case, the superstition that a full moon increases erratic behavior remained impervious to change. Unfortunately, students maintained a strong belief in lunar lunacy at the beginning of the course, and the belief did not change at the end of the course.”

It conforms to my experience, many students at all levels, including doctoral students, are absolutely convinced of the influence of the full moon on human behavior. Students have actually gotten angry when I point out the contrary evidence.

In their paper, McCarthy and Frantz offer a possible explanation:

“We believe this particular misperception is especially difficult to change because people continually employ confirmation bias as a way to retain their belief.”

I suspect that cultural factors might also be involved. I remember in one class two Asian students were astonished by the debate. They had never heard anyone suggest the full moon as a harbinger of bad tidings. In their respective cultures the full moon is seen as an auspicious omen.

 

2 Responses to “Why is the full moon myth so powerful?”

  1. Enrique Guerra-Pujol August 23, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

    I guess most students aren’t good Bayesians (especially given their reactions to the “contrary evidence” link)

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  1. Synchronicity – A concept that may become increasingly important in our emerging quantum worldview | Earthpages.ca - September 9, 2016

    […] Why is the full moon myth so powerful? […]

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