February 27, 2008

Are you pregnant? Head for Australia, quick!

[By Merry]

A science article in the Telegraph suggests that the season in which you are born can influence your personality. For example, women born in May are often more impulsive, while women born in November are more reflective. (Or so says John Eagle, of Aberdeen University.)

The article goes on to quote other researchers, who found that "people born in the autumn will tend to be physically active and excel in football while those born in the spring will be more cerebral and may be better suited to chess."

(Am I impulsive? Moi? I need to reflect a bit on that, frankly. And I stink at chess, so there's another question mark right there.)

All these claims sounded wacko to me, but then I read further. What I liked about these studies is that the May/November conclusions apply only to the Northern Hemisphere. If you look at people born down under, the findings are reversed. Kiwi November babies get the impulsive label slapped on them instead. (Being labeled 'impulsive' doesn't strike me as a compliment.)

According to another researcher, Jayanti Chotai, at Umea University in Sweden, levels of crucial hormones produced by a pregnant woman change based on the seasons (due to temperature, light levels, changes in nutrition levels, and so on), and this can "hard-wire personality traits while the baby is in the womb."

So apparently we've got another reason to blame our parents for whatever it is we don't like about ourselves. It's not my fault I don't exercise enough. If my parents had had the foresight to arrange matters so that I was born in the fall, I could be off playing football right now.

I don't know nuthin' about birthin' babies*, but if you're in the process of producing a baby in northern hemispherical spring season, and you want the little'un to be into fitness, it sounds as if this might be a good time to emigrate to Australia and give birth in their autumn. On the other hand, if you want to produce the next braniac... hmmmn. Tough choice there. I suppose you could always compromise and give birth on the Equator somewhere.

What do you think? Does the idea of womb-wired personalities require a little seasoning?

Astrological clock thanks to flickr.

*Sorry. Couldn't help myself.


  1. I think it's fascinating and a bit creepy to keep reading about how much of who we are comes down to physiology, not just "will power" or "self-discipline" or whatever. Part of me wants to think we can be whoever we want to be--but another part of me loves that I have an excuse based on biological factors to be just who I am.

    (June birthday, not the least bit impulsive. Don't much like chess, though...)

  2. I don't buy it. I tink we see what we want to see. I read horoscopes for fun, but with about the same faith that I play the lottery.

    I think it was 20/20 years ago, they gave a group of people what was supposed to be a write up of their traits based on date/time of birth. Basically, all of them thought the write-up was nearly 100% accurate. Then the researchers told them that they had in fact all received the same profile, and it was that of a serial killer.

    I'm guessing they all felt a little silly after that.

  3. November baby here and yes, I am reflective. However, as a fall baby in general the sports thing does not work out for me.

    We need sports types and brainiacs and everything else. I'd hate to live in a world where every baby was a designer baby.

  4. That's a fascinating experiment, Scrumpy's B. We all see what we want to see. (Um... unless maybe they all were serial killers?)

    The article kept trying to stress that it was not in favor of astrology, this was based on the seasons not on the stars. But still it comes down to whether external factors can influence our personality traits. I agree, Crabby, I want someone else to blame for my faults, but at the same time I don't want to think I have so little control of who I am.

  5. Definitely, Leah! Why can't one have brain and brawn both?

  6. I was thinking about something like this recently. Let's have a show of hands of people who DO NOT have any delusions? Sorry, I don't see any hands going up! Perhaps, if we allowed others their(harmless) delusions and they did the same for us, it would be a good thing.

    Dr. J

  7. Ok, here's my outlook on this, as well as horoscopes. I don't necessarily believe it, but I don't discount it entirely either, and here's my reasoning:

    If entire oceans on our planet can be affected by something as 'small' as the moon (in comparison to the massive size of the other planets in our solar system), i.e. daily tides, then why is it not also reasonable to say that the same forces would have some effect on a developing fetus? We're all just made up of the same material as the rest of the planet, so if the moon can move an ocean, why couldn't it move an electron or cell that would eventually have some impact on our personality?

  8. It's interesting...I could see the sun and weather impacting the Mom and maybe the child moodwise...it's hard to say what body chemistry might do to the developing child. It'd be more the Mom's chmistry I think than the weather...but maybe their parents are more moody when they are pregnant or more likely to be depressed in a winter with a young baby. Who knows? Some people are just more emotional and I don't know as you could link it to all that...it's interesting though. Maybe one of the bricks in the pile of things perhaps...
    Seems like another quest to explain why people aren't feeling absolutely perfect all the time.
    But both my husband and I were born a few weeks apart and I'm terribly sheery and he's a moper, so I don't hold too much stock in it.

  9. I was wondering what 'sheery' was ;)

  10. Sarah, what I got from the abstract about temperature levels etc. affecting hormones in the womb was that there was a stronger likelihood for this trait or that. Also interesting to note that it was different for male and female babies. (Females born in the spring were more impulsive, males were more persistent.) There are so many factors to try to keep in mind -- it's hard to say anything definitive. Just general tendencies.
    Then again, I could be delusional, as Dr. J suggests we all are :)

  11. I was born on Labor Day...:-)
    Probably meant more to mom then to me!


  12. I think I kind of break the mold on this one. A Halloween baby, and definitely reflective rather than impulsive. However, I used to be a lump who didn't move and did very well in school, and now I'm very active. So while it might give tendencies (I buy the thing with different hormones related to the seasons), they can definitely be broken!

  13. I don't buy it but hey, if people want to believe it, that's ok.

    My birthday is in May.... I don't play chess well.

    Remember that Crabby... May... I love presents... lots of presents.... :-)

  14. Interesting, this seems like faulty statistics, but...

    I *was* born in the summer and I am terrible at both sports and chess...

  15. *snerk* I'm a September baby and I was one of the ones who hated gym class. :p And even now that I work out most days, when I'm not on the treadmill, I'm a lump.

  16. And those born smack dab in the middle of the summer are left out of this article and are too stubborn and lazy to go searching for the study themselves to find out exactly what they are.

    They deem themselves to be perfect, thank you very much.

  17. bahahahah - wait a min "... with summer children being less prone to asthma but more likely to be short-sighted."

    I take two puffers a day and I totally missed that sentence.

    1 for 2 is good, I guess.

  18. I was born the last day of summer! Missed being active by mere hours - damn! I am short-sighted and asthmatic though.

  19. Well this explains my affinity to chess, and since I was conceived in the Fall time frame I assume my sportiness comes from that, no?

    Interesting report. It sounds more just for fun than real kinda like celebrity gossip is to news.

  20. Couldn't get the page to load, so couldn't read what the traits are for me. Sigh.
    Seems to be quite a skeptical group here in the comments section, though.

  21. Readers of Cranky Fitness seem skeptical, Bag Lady? Color me shocked! :)

  22. Ack! Bag lady, I do apologize if the link doesn't show up for you. I could email the article to you -- is it all right to use your bag lady bag ordering email?

    And truly, though the ideas presented sound off the wall, the research itself looks much more impressive when you read the actual dressed-up-in-scientific-terms abstract. (I could only find an abstract for Dr. Chotai's work, but I'm sure the others are out there somewhere buried in some password-only vault.) I suppose they have to make their research look impressive to justify getting their studies funded :)

    The trouble is, all studies like this can only deal in generalities, and that usually leaves so many "yeah, but--" exceptions that the research ends up looking like it has more holes in it that Swiss cheese.

  23. I have to say that, while I am always intrigued by these things, I never really buy into it. It reminds me of horoscopes, too. My sister and I have birthdays four days apart, both Leos, and could not be more different. that has always been my guide with things like this. Still, really interesting.

  24. Merry - that would be great, thanks! Yes, that email address is fine.

  25. Merry - thank you so much! The Bag Lady appreciates the fact that the ladies who run the Cranky Fitness blog are so nice! (Oops, suppose you didn't want that getting out, did you?)
    Now the Bag Lady can sit back and wait for the panic attacks!

  26. BagLady: Merry is the nice one at the blog. Crabby has been horribly busy and distracted lately and has not been keeping up with blog things very well, so it's a great thing Merry's here. Crabby herself is not nearly as nice).

    (Can't have Merry's pleasant personality giving folks the impression that the Crab has a soft shell or anything!)

  27. I'm bad for not reading all the comments, but I'm at work, forgive me. But I just want to know if this study has been compared to astrology. Of the two I think I'm going to go with astrology. I've done my birth chart and it was pretty spot on with what traits I've ended up with. :)

  28. K.L.C., there were several researchers who had similar findings, but the main article in the Telegraph took great pains to stress that this was /not/ about your personality being defined by the stars (astrology ) as it was about your personality being defined by the season in which you were born.
    The form of astrology that I'm most familiar with is based in Northern Hemispherical (i.e. mostly European) traditions. It would be fascinating to study what any Antipodean societies had come up with as their version of astrology. (Constellations, such as the Southern Cross, are different Down Under, so why shouldn't their astrology be?)
    Forgive me if this sounds too glib, I am /not/ an Antipodean astrologer, nor have I ever seen anyone play one on T.V. I do think that the research on any correlation between seasons and personalities might be traced back to the same ideas that developed astrology.

  29. p.s. I would like to state categorically that I am /not/ a nicer person that Crabby, and I would never dream of playing a nicer person than she on T.V. at any time.
    Would I lie? To you? Naaaaah.

    (My philosophy is that I only lie to men that I am dating. I'm comfortable with that philosophy since any lies stated therein are entirely made for their peace of mind and thus are altruistic. That's my story, anyway.)


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