Why do children go hyperactive when it is windy?
Energetic behaviour on windy days seems commonplace in the classroom.
There certainly seems to be widespread belief in this idea. A survey of hundreds of UK headteachers in 2020 found that the overwhelming majority (74 per cent) believed that strong wind is the worst weather for pupils’ behaviour, rather than heat, snow or rain. We probably shouldn’t dismiss these beliefs out of hand, but from a scientific perspective, there’s little evidence to support them.
A 1989 study by researchers at the University of Lancashire actually found that slightly fewer children were sent to a ‘quiet room’ (for disruptive behaviour) on windier days. A University of Nevada study from 1990 looked at a range of weather variables, including wind, and while preschoolers spent less time on their learning materials during stormy weather, they instead spent more time engaged appropriately (so not aggressively) with peers and with teachers. The researchers surmised that children seek out more human company when the weather makes them feel uneasy – a possible effect of wind, then, but hardly consistent with the idea that it makes them hyper.
Or consider a study carried out at Carleton University in Canada that also looked at links between young kids’ behaviour and weather patterns. In this case, stronger wind had no associations with negative emotions, but it was correlated with the kids being less determined and less active. The researchers speculated this was due to the cold time of year, with the biting wind feeling harsh and demotivating – but again, this doesn’t back up the idea of wind making kids go mad.
Based on the little scientific research available, the idea that kids go crazy when it’s windy seems to be no more than an urban myth, alongside similar evidence-free but popular beliefs, such as that sugar makes them go wild.
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Asked by: Karl Stewart, Leicester
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Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.
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