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A biorhythm (from Greek βίος - bios, "life" and ῥυθμός - rhuthmos, "any regular recurring motion, rhythm") is an attempt to predict various aspects of a person's life through simple mathematical cycles. The theory was developed by Wilhelm Fliess in the late 19th century, and was popularized in the United States in late 1970s. Most scientists believe that the idea has no more predictive power than chance and consider the concept an example of pseudoscience.
According to the theory of biorhythms, a person's life is influenced by rhythmic biological cycles that affect his or her ability in various domains, such as mental, physical and emotional activity. These cycles begin at birth and oscillate in a steady (sine wave) fashion throughout life, and by modeling them mathematically, it is suggested that a person's level of ability in each of these domains can be predicted from day to day. The theory is built on the idea that the biofeedback chemical and hormonal secretion functions within the body could show a sinusoidal behavior over time.
Most biorhythm models use three cycles: a 23-day physical cycle, a 28-day emotional cycle, and a 33-day intellectual cycle. Although the 28-day cycle is the same length as the average woman's menstrual cycle and was originally described as a "female" cycle (see below), the two are not necessarily in any particular synchronization. Each of these cycles varies between high and low extremes sinusoidally, with days where the cycle crosses the zero line described as "critical days" of greater risk or uncertainty.
Theories published state the equations for the cycles as:
- physical: ,
- emotional: ,
- intellectual: ,
where indicates the number of days since birth. Basic arithmetic shows that the combination of the simpler 23- and 28-day cycles repeats every 644 days (or 1-3/4 years), while the triple combination of 23-, 28-, and 33-day cycles repeats every 21,252 days (or 58.2+ years).
The notion of periodic cycles in human fortunes is ancient; for instance, it is found in natal astrology and in folk beliefs about "lucky days". The 23- and 28-day rhythms used by biorhythmists, however, were first devised in the late 19th century by Wilhelm Fliess, a Berlin physician and patient of Sigmund Freud. Fliess believed that he observed regularities at 23- and 28-day intervals in a number of phenomena, including births and deaths. He labeled the 23-day rhythm "male" and the 28-day rhythm "female", matching the menstrual cycle.
In 1904, Viennese psychology professor Hermann Swoboda came to similar conclusions. Alfred Teltscher, professor of engineering at the University of Innsbruck, developed Swoboda's work and suggested that his students' good and bad days followed a rhythmic pattern; he believed that the brain's ability to absorb, mental ability, and alertness ran in 33-day cycles. One of the first academic researchers of biorhythms was Estonian-born Nikolai Pärna, who published a book in German called Rhythm, Life and Creation in 1923.
The practice of consulting biorhythms was popularized in the 1970s by a series of books by Bernard Gittelson, including Biorhythm — A Personal Science, Biorhythm Charts of the Famous and Infamous, and Biorhythm Sports Forecasting. Gittelson's company, Biorhythm Computers, Inc., made a business selling personal biorhythm charts and calculators, but his ability to predict sporting events was not substantiated.
Charting biorhythms for personal use was popular in the United States during the 1970s; many places (especially video arcades and amusement areas) had a biorhythm machine that provided charts upon entry of date of birth. Biorhythm programs were a common application on personal computers; and in the late 1970s, there were also handheld biorhythm calculators on the market, the Kosmos 1 and the Casio Biolator. Biorhythm charts appeared in the Chicago Tribune from 1977 to 1979, and Gittelson wrote daily biorhythm charts for the Toronto Star from 1981 to 1985.
Although biorhythms have declined in popularity - opinionated pop culture magazine Vice considered them "dead" by the mid 2010s - there are free and proprietary apps and computer programs which have charting and analysis capabilities, as well as numerous websites that offer free biorhythm readings.
There have been some three dozen studies supporting biorhythm theory, but according to a study by Terence Hines, all of those had methodological and statistical errors. Hines rejected 134 biorhythm studies and concluded that the theory is not valid.
Supporters continued to defend the theory after Hines' review, causing other scientists to consider the field as pseudoscience:
An examination of some 134 biorhythm studies found that the theory is not valid (Hines, 1998). It is empirically testable and has been shown to be false. Terence Hines believes that this fact implies that biorhythm theory 'can not be properly termed a pseudoscientific theory'. However, when the advocates of an empirically testable theory refuse to give up the theory in the face of overwhelming evidence against it, it seems reasonable to call the theory pseudoscientific. For, in fact, the adherents to such a theory have declared by their behaviour that there is nothing that could falsify it, yet they continue to claim the theory is scientific. (from Carroll's "The Skeptic's Dictionary"):175
The physiologist Gordon Stein in the book Encyclopedia of Hoaxes (1993) has written: "Both the theoretical underpinning and the practical scientific verification of biorhythm theory are lacking. Without those, biorhythms became just another pseudoscientific claim that people are willing to accept without required evidence. Those pushing biorhythm calculators and books on a gullible public are guilty of making fraudulent claims. They are hoaxers of the public if they know what they are saying has no factual justification."
A 1978 study of the incidence of industrial accidents found neither empirical nor theoretical support for the biorhythm model.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Biorhythm.|
- βίος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- ῥυθμός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- "Effects of circadian rhythm phase alteration on physiological and psychological variables: Implications to pilot performance (including a partially annotated bibliography)". NASA-TM-81277. NASA. 1981-03-01. Retrieved 2011-05-25. "No evidence exists to support the concept of biorhythms; in fact, scientific data refute their existence."
- Carroll, Robert Todd. "Biorhythms". Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-02-21. "The theory of biorhythms is a pseudoscientific theory that claims our daily lives are significantly affected by rhythmic cycles overlooked by scientists who study biological rhythms."
- Clark Glymour, Douglas Stalker (1990). "Winning through pseudoscience". In Patrick Grim. ? Philosophy of science and the occult. SUNY series in philosophy (2, revised ed.). SUNY Press. pp. 92, 94. ISBN 978-0-7914-0204-7.
They'll cheerfully empty their pockets to anyone with a twinkle in their eye and a pseudoscience in their pocket. Astrology, biorhythms, ESP, numerology, astral projection, scientology, UFOlogy, pyramid power, psychic surgeons, Atlantis real state (...). (...) your pseudoscience will have better sales potential if it makes use of a mysterious device, or a lot of calculations (but simple calculations) (...) The great models [of this sales potential] are astrology and biorhythms (...).
- Raimo Toumela (1987). "Science, Protoscience and Pseudoscience". In Joseph C. Pitt, Marcello Pera. Rational changes in science: essays on scientific reasoning. Boston studies in the philosophy of science. 98 (illustrated ed.). Springer. pp. 94, 96. ISBN 978-90-277-2417-5.
If we take such pseudosciences as astrology, the theory of biorhythms, suitable parts of parapsychology, homeopathy and faith healing (...) Such examples of pseudoscience as the theory of biorhythms, astrology, dianetics, creationism, [and] faith healing may seem too obvious examples of pseudoscience for academic readers.
- Stefan Ploch (2003). "Metatheoretical problems in phonology with Occam's Razor and non-ad-hoc-ness". In Jonathan Kaye, Stefan Ploch. Living on the edge: 28 papers in honour of Jonathan Kaye. Studies in generative grammar. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 166, 174–176, 186, footnotes 15 and 17 in page 199. ISBN 978-3-11-017619-3.
the following quote about the pseudoscientific biorhythm theory [p. 174–175] (...) we can eliminate ad hoc hypotheses (i.e. arbitrariness) that are the hallmark of all pseudosciences (astrology, biorhythm theory, (...) [p. 176] Unfortunately, in the case of the most socially successful [not scientific] theories, just as in the case of astrology and biorhythm "theory", we are dealing with something that resembles quackery closely. [p.186] (...) what matters is that falsifying data is systematically discounted in this pseudotheory. [p. 199].
- These cycles are to be adjusted based on the person's personal day clock which may run from 22 hours to 27 hours although 23-25 is the norm. Two ways you can find your personal day clock is grip test and body temperature every 15 minutes for a few days or easier same time each day for a few months.
- Hoffmann, Frank W., and William G. Bailey, Mind and Society Fads, 1992.
- Heisel, Andrew (15 September 2015). "Biorhythms: The 1970s Fad That Won a Super Bowl, Killed Clark Gable, and Made America Gaga for Computers | VICE Sports". VICE Sports. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- Hines, Terence (1998). "Comprehensive Review of Biorhythm Theory". Psychological Reports. 83 (1): 19–64. doi:10.2466/PR0.83.5.19-64. PMID 9775660. Archived from the original (PDF (summary)) on February 12, 2009. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
- Stein, Gordon. (1993). Encyclopedia of Hoaxes. Gale Group. p. 161. ISBN 0-8103-8414-0
- Persinger, MA; Cooke, WJ; Janes, JT. "No evidence for relationship between biorhythms and industrial accidents". Percept Mot Skills. 46: 423–6. doi:10.2466/pms.19220.127.116.113. PMID 662540.
- Aschoff, Jurgen (ed.), Biological Rhythms (Handbooks of Behavioral Neurobiology). 1981.
- Bartel, Pauline C., "Biorhythm: discovering your natural ups and downs", An Impact book. ISBN 0-531-01355-3
- Bentley, Evie, Awareness: biorhythms, sleep, and dreaming. ISBN 0-415-18872-5
- Crawley, Jacyntha, The Biorhythm Kit, UK: ISBN 1-85906-032-3, London Biorhythm Company Limited.
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- Evans, James R., (ed.) and Manfred Clynes (ed.), Rhythm in psychological, linguistic, and musical processes. ISBN 0-398-05235-2
- Gittelson, Bernard, Biorhythm: A Personal Science, Futura Publications. 1976 ISBN 0-86007-361-0
- Hodgkins, Zerrin Biomatch Z. 1998. ISBN 0-9531983-0-8
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- Louis, Arthur M., Journalism and Other Atrocities. 2010. ISBN 978-1-4538-1520-5
- Roche, James, Biorhythms at your fingertips. ISBN 0-7137-1562-6
- Thommen, George S., Is This Your Day. 1973. ISBN 0-517-00742-8
- Debarbieux, Patrick, l'ABC des biorythmes. 1999. ISBN 2-7339-0615-1
- Hines, T.M., "Comprehensive review of biorhythm theory". Psychology Department, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY. Psychol Rep. 1998 Aug;83(1):19–64. (ed. concluded that biorhythm theory is not valid.)
- D'Andrea, V.J., D.R. Black, and N.G. Stayrook, "Relation of the Fliess-Swoboda Biorhythm Theory to suicide occurrence". J Nerv Ment Dis. 1984 Aug;172(8):490–4. (ed. concluded that there was a validity to biorhythm when the innovative methods of the study are put to use.)
- Laxenaire M., and O. Laurent, "What is the current thinking on the biorhythm theory?" Ann Med Psychol (Paris). 1983 Apr;141(4):425–9. [French] (ed. Biorhythm theory is disregarded by the medical world though it has achieved a bit of fame with the public)
- Wolcott, J.H.; McMeekin, R.R.; Burgin, R.E.; Yanowitch, R.E. (Jun 1977). "Correlation of general aviation accidents with the biorhythm theory". Hum Factors. 19 (3): 283–93.
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- "Biorhythm in gynecology--a renaissance of Fliess' theory of periodicity?". Arch Gynecol. 1979 20 July;228(1-4):642. [German]
- Nijsten, M.W., and S.E. Willemsen, "Accidents a matter of chance? The significance of lunar phases and biorhythms in trauma patients". Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 1991 21 December;135(51):2421–4. [Dutch] (ed. 'critical' biorhythm days were not found to increase the number of accidents experienced by subjects.)
- Hastings, Michael, "The brain, circadian rhythms, and clock genes". Clinical review. BMJ 1998;317:1704–1707 19 December.
- U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, "Biological Rhythms: Implications for the Worker". U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1991. Washington, DC. OTA-BA-463. NTIS PB92-117589
- Ashikari, M., Higuchi, S., Ishikawa, F., and Tsunetsugu, Y., "Interdisciplinary Symposium on 'Human Beings and Environments': Approaches from Biological Anthropology, Social Anthropology and Developmental Psychology". 25 August 2002
- "Biorhythm experiment management plan", NASA, Ames Research Center. Moffett Field, 1983.
- "Biological Rhythms and Human Adaptation to the Environment". US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (AMRMC), US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.
- Ebert, D., K.P. Ebmeier, T. Rechlin, and W.P. Kaschka, "Biological Rhythms and Behavior", Advances in Biological Psychiatry. ISSN 0378-7354