As soon as Sept. 1 hits, it seems like everyone is obsessing over fall. Even if it's still 90 degrees outside, I'm bombarded with Instagram posts about pumpkin spice lattes and #SweaterWeather. As a diehard summer lover myself, I'm always curious as to why everyone seems so eager for the very best season to be over. What's with the fall obsession? Well, it turns out there actually might be logical reasons behind the autumn obsession... and here's why you love fall so much, according to science. I'll be #TeamSummer for life, but I can't argue with the facts.
It turns out, a big reason why everyone seems to love fall so much is simply because it's been culturally engrained in us for as long as we can remember. As a lifelong bookworm and teacher's pet, the start of fall signified so many glorious things, like a brand new academic planner and a fresh school year. (Seriously, I was a nerd.) Kathryn Lively, a professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, told Huffington Post that these associations are normal, and much more significant than we might think. "As children, we come to associate fall with going back to school, new school supplies, seeing friends. It’s exciting, for most. We still respond to this pattern that we experienced for 18 years," said Lively. If you love fresh starts and new goals, it makes absolute sense that you love fall.
Of course, there's more to fall than simply unconscious associations and happy memories. Dr. Ben-Shahar Tal, author of five different books on happiness and lecturer at Harvard University (ever heard of it?), told MTV News that many of the things associated with fall automatically illicit warm feelings. In fact, in my own attempt to understand the fall craze, I asked my Instagram friends to tell me what they liked so much about it. Their responses? "Comfy sweaters." "Fall baking." "Boots." "Fires in the fire place." "The smells." Touché, Instagram friends, those all do sound delightful. Claire Strohl, Indiana resident and fall fanatic, says there's no shortage of things to love about the season. "I love hot coffee on cool mornings. I love scarves and sweaters. I love boots and I love the trees, and I love fall desserts!" Strohl tells Romper. Basically, it's cozy time, and who can argue with that?
The lowering temperature is another big reason people cite for their autumnal enthusiasm. While summer can be too hot and winter can be too cold, fall is in that temperature range that is scientifically described as "juuust right." According to research done by Patrick Baylis at the University of California, Berkeley and written about in TIME, "People’s happiness declines as temperatures rise above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit." For Zach McCormick, New York resident, the best part of fall has nothing to do with specialty baked goods or chunky knit sweaters and everything to do with these pleasant temperatures. "I just like finally not sweating every time I go outside," McCormick tells Romper.
In many areas, the moderate temperatures bring falling leaves in all shades of warm colors. While the science isn't totally conclusive, many psychologists attribute warm feelings, like comfort, excitement, cheerfulness, and optimism, to these warm colors, noted the website Art Therapy. It makes sense, too. If the leaves were suddenly turning black and gray and falling off the trees, it probably wouldn't feel nearly as cozy and romantic.
I can't write about fall and not address its signature flavors, like pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon. Not only are these flavors generally found in hot drinks and foods, which are comforting in themselves, their smells are what actually makes them so coveted. NBC News interviewed Dr. John McGann, a sensory neuroscientist at Rutgers, to understand why these flavors have such a cult following. "About 70 percent of our [perception] of taste is retronasal smell and then maybe 25 percent of it is true taste," McGann told NBC. "Smell anatomically has a more direct connection to classical memory regions in the brain.” The smell of the spices in your PSL or your fall dessert — things like cinnamon and nutmeg — are going to bring back memories of cozy family Thanksgivings and happy autumns of the past, and you're going to suddenly feel really good.
So what have I learned through this? I've learned that you crazy fall people are no different than us crazy summer people. While I get giddy over the smell of sunscreen and feel of summer dresses, you get the same emotional responses over pumpkin spice and comfy sweaters. The smells, sights, and sensations of fall give you all sorts of scientifically-backed, feel-good emotions, and there's nothing better than that. So embrace it and know that science has the evidence for it.