According to astrology, the relative position of the Earth, moon, sun, and stars at the time of birth greatly influences a person's personality. Scientists have refuted this for years, though a small study from Semmelweis University in Budapest has found that personality may be influenced by the season in which a person is born. The results were presented by lead researcher Xenia Gonda at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Berlin on October 19.
Don’t take this as a reason to buy tarot cards and make an appointment with an astrologer though. There were no causal links found between the birth season and personality, just a correlation that is prompting researchers to ask some interesting follow-up questions.
"We can't yet say anything about the mechanisms involved,” Gonda said in a press release. “What we are now looking at is to see if there are genetic markers which are related to season of birth and mood disorder.”
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects millions during the winter, when daylight hours are shorter. It is not well-known what exactly the lack of natural sunlight does to the brain, but it could lead to decreased levels of serotonin or interrupt circadian rhythms. Though a specific mechanism for this study was not identified, it is possible that factors that may affect a pregnant mother during seasonal changes could get passed down to the developing fetus.
"Biochemical studies have shown that the season in which you are born has an influence on certain monoamine neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which is detectable even in adult life,” Gonda continued. “This led us to believe that birth season may have a longer-lasting effect. Our work looked at over 400 subjects and matched their birth season to personality types in later life. Basically, it seems that when you are born may increase or decrease your chance of developing certain mood disorders.”
The study surveyed Hungarian college students about their season of birth and asked questions about their temperament. There were some statistically significant trends that emerged.
Those born in spring were found to be more likely to have a hyperthymic temperament. That is, they have a tendency to be incredibly positive.
Babies born in summer were also found to be hyperthymic, but with strong cyclothymic temperament. Though summer babies are more likely to experience those high positive feelings, they were also significantly more likely to report experiencing frequent mood swings. This is particularly true when compared to babies born in winter.
Those with autumn birthdays had drastically reduced tendency toward depressed moods compared to people born in winter.
People with winter birthdays were found to be less likely to be irritable, compared to all other seasons.
Now, these results do need to be taken with a grain of salt. Not only was the study fairly small and self-reported, but the environmental conditions of those who grew up and are going to school in Hungary are drastically different compared to someone who might have been born closer to the equator or have different seasonal weather patterns.
[Header image adapted from “A pond for all seasons” by Keith Hall via flickr]