Mark Hamilton. Image: Univ. of ConnecticutEvery Thursday, Laboratory Equipment features a Scientist of the Week, chosen from the science industry’s latest headlines. This week’s scientist is Mark Hamilton from the University of Connecticut. Studying a data set of 300 celebrities, he found that some personality traits are linked to the season of one’s birth.

Q: What made you interested in studying the truth behind astrology?

A: I have been reviewing articles that debunk astrology for many years. When I was young, I used to read my horoscope for fun but didn’t take it seriously. About one third of Americans buy into astrology and in Europe the audience is even larger. What is intriguing about astrology is that is a mixture of mystical beliefs and primitive astronomy. Obviously, distant celestial events can’t influence terrestrial events the way many astrologers suggest. But there have been recent findings that should give one pause, like the discovery that sun spot activity at time of birth has a surprisingly large impact on life span.

Q: What are the future implications of your research and findings?

A: We have collected additional celebrity data and have confirmed just about all of the effects reported with the earlier data. The findings are giving us insight into the likely personality traits that determine whether someone seeks fame or not. It looks like sun sign does tap into self-worth — which explains why it is the most popular astrological aspect. Wetness of sign appears related to neuroticism and schizotypy in particular. Elements — most notably fixed signs — give us a sense of a person’s rigidity and the aggressiveness with which they would pursue celebrity. Brightness of sign — odd versus even months is correlated with extroversion.

Q: What was the most surprising thing you found in your research?

A: The most curious finding was the tie between wetness of sign and schizotypy, suggesting that people born in January and February are more fanciful thinkers and more creative yet prone to maladjusted thoughts.

Q: What is the take home message of your research and results?

A: Astrological predictions for individuals are quite unreliable. So people should not put much stock in their daily horoscopes. When you consider larger trends though, astrological predictions linking signs to personalities, patterns may emerge that are worth exploring. Astrology has a tainted reputation in scientific circles. Scientists are quick to reject all astrological claims out of hand. If we reflect on the longer history of astrology, which covers thousands of years, millions of people, and many of the world’s cultures, there may be kernels of truth buried in large mounds of silly claims.

Q: What new technologies did you use in your lab during your research?

A: In order to buttress our conclusions about the links between astrological aspects and personality, we have used meta-analysis, mathematical modeling, and causal modeling. Our Digital Gamesmith Laboratory features a dedicated distributed processing network — that we refer to affectionately as our Rogue Cloud — allowing us to crunch a massive amount of modeling data.

Q: What is next for you and your research?

A: We are continuing to collect large quantities of celebrity data. One of our databases contains 85,000 famous people and another contains over 40,000 famous people. We are extending our model to cover more occupations. One of the more important dimensions of this research is to better understand the consequences of relative age in school on personality and how it may influence choice of occupation – like becoming a celebrity.

Being one of the youngest persons in your class at school, especially early on, is stressful. It can be traumatic, leading to depression. Conversely, being one of the oldest persons in your class can lead to achievements that can bolster your self-esteem. These relative age effects have their greatest impact early in life but they can have a formative influence on subsequent personality development.

To read past Scientists of the Week click here.