gunda007: September 2011 Archives

Several correlation studies have been conducted to determine the relation between the phases of the moon and the behavior of animals; for every study which shows a positive correlation there is one which shows that there is no correlation whatsoever.
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However, there are a lot of people who continue to strongly believe that the moon does have an effect on the behavior of animals. Predominant among those who believe are a large number of doctors and nurses who have found that the number of patients admitted to hospitals for animal bites increases around the full moon. Contrarily, there are some doctors who refute these theories as absolute nonsense, because they have not observed anything of this sort.
When I came across an article on this topic (which can be found here), I felt that it was all a joke and that there can't still be people who believe that the moon can affect animal behavior. I mentioned this to my mother and I was astounded to find that she too believed this hypothesis- this convinced me of its relevance and also got me thinking about why people might persist in their beliefs.
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Since a majority of studies cannot agree on the positive correlation, I felt that it might be a case in which people were assuming causation from a few instances of correlation despite contradicting data.
This eagerness to jump at causation seems to point to a clear case of confirmation bias. People already believe that the moon affects animal behavior and they are simply looking for proof of their ideas- they refuse to see contradictions. As a result, the studies which have clearly demonstrated that there is no correlation are ignored. Also, doctors who have conducted studies have found that their belief in the lunar effects have been indicated- this is a clear indication that they think they know what they are going to find, they are suffering from confirmation bias.
This line of reasoning raised several questions in my mind. What might be the cause for this initial belief which leads to confirmation bias? Could it be popular media like movies and novels, or is it just plain superstition? Have people encountered a lot of coincidences which have led them to believe that the moon has some mystic effect on the behavior of animals?
The article which I earlier provided a link to is a fair description of the disputes regarding the study, here is an article that talks about people who strongly believe in this hypothesis.

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