Vitality

How Birth Month Influences Personality Traits: The Ironic Science Of Astrological Signs

Wheel of Zodiac symbols printed on textile
Astrological signs may hold some scientific merit when it comes to birth month and personality. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Most of us have explored the mystical world of astrology to either mock or devotionally leave our fate to the stars. The astrology chart tells us our astrological sign, along with several characteristics based on our birth month, but does it hold any scientific value? According to a recent study published in the journal Comprehensive Psychology, our date of birth may actually influence our personality traits, such as being introverted or extroverted.

Astrology uses scientific knowledge about heavenly bodies, including scientific-sounding tools like star charts. However, there has been no “real world” evidence that astrology works. The pseudoscience is based on a system of beliefs about the seasons and other events to appeal to a mass audience. Despite its lack of scientific proof, however, 29 percent of Americans believe in astrology, according to a Harris Poll.

Mark Hamilton, study author and a social scientist in the Communication Department at UConn, believes although heavenly bodies are not the true source of seasonality effects on personality, its aspects could be useful tools to help people remember the timing and patterns of nature. He says seasonal effects may not be as clear in individuals, but they can be better understood through averaging personality traits in a larger group born at the same time of the year.

To explore seasonal effects in relation to personality, Hamilton looked at a data set of 300 celebrities from the fields of politics, science, public service, literature, the arts, and sports. He incorporated traditional Western astrology, which uses elements like the water, earth, air, and fire; sign duality like bright and dark; and sign qualities like cardinal, mutable, and fixed to describe and categorize these effects. For example, December through early March is viewed as a “wet” time of year. Wetness is connected to creativity. Meanwhile, signs that are considered “fixed” are more likely to be stubborn and persistent than others.

The findings revealed celebrities’ birth dates tend to coincide at certain times of the year. “Wet” signs were associated with more celebrities, as well as signs that are classified as “bright” and “fixed.” This supports Hamilton’s model that astrological aspects act as personality substitutions. It also suggests examining the effect of season of birth heuristics can eventually serve to predict different occupations and other behaviors.

“Psychologists want to dismiss these astrological correlations, but there are seasonality effects that we have yet to explain," said Hamilton, in the press release.

This study coincides with a 2013 study published in the Journal of Social Sciences that found out of a sample of 100 celebrities that were randomly selected from people of different walks of life, the astrological sign Aquarius had the largest number of celebrities in the sample. The researchers increased the sample size to 200 and then 300, but found the trend remains unchanged. In all three cases, Aquarius turned out to be the sign when most of the celebrities are born. Like in Hamilton’s study, the astrological sun sign was a good predictor of celebrity.

Furthermore, psychologists have known certain personality traits tend to be associated with certain birth months. A 2012 study published in the journal PLOS ONE found people born in January and February tend to be more creative and have a higher chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenia than other people born at any other time of the year. However, this connection is more likely due to the increased chance of risky pregnancies during the winter than being born under a certain star sign. For example, mothers are more likely to contract illnesses like the flu during winter months. This can complicate childbirth.

The correlation between seasonality effects and personality should be taken with a grain of salt. Although the mechanism for this phenomena is unknown, factors such as maternal infection or even sunlight exposure are possible reasons for these patterns. The truth is our birth month can affect our mood, but the fault is not in our stars.

Sources: Hamilton MA. Astrology as a culturally transmitted heuristic scheme for understanding seasonality effects: a response to Genovese (2014). Comprehensive Psychology. 2015.

DeLuca GC, Disanto G, Ebers GC et al. Seasonal Distribution of Psychiatric Births in England. PLoS ONE. 2012.

Adel MM, Hossain SF, Johnson H. Favored Zodiac for Celebrity Babies. Journal of Social Sciences. 2014. 

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