Everyone seems to love the fall: journalists, everyone on the internet and of course pumpkin spice latte enthusiasts, in particular. What is it about autumn that gets everyone so excited?
According to Kathryn Lively, professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, our obsession with the season is a social construct that starts when we’re children.
“We’re conditioned from a very early age that the autumn comes with all these exciting things,” Lively told The Huffington Post. “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 eighteen years.”
For children, starting a new school year means new clothes, new pencils, new sneakers. A fresh start. September, and by extension, the fall, becomes a temporal landmark – a clean slate marked by a new season.
In fact, a team studying the relationship between time and motivation found that seasons have more importance than you might think.
“Much as physical landmarks help structure our representation of space, temporal landmarks such as birthdays and significant calendar dates structure our perception of time,” wrote the researchers of a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2013.
These landmarks can also be huge behavioral motivators: “This fall I am really going to learn how to cook great soups because the kitchen is fun and I’ll also save money,” you might say to yourself. Autumn just became a temporal landmark – summer you spent lots of money on food. By the spring, you’re a new, responsible version of yourself. In this way, the temporal landmark allows us an opportunity to self improve.
Humans also view fall as comforting, Lively said. If we live in a place where the seasons turn dramatically, we break out flannel shirts, thicker blankets, we shake off salads and ice-creams for heavier stews and soup. (Though it’s important not to discount that shorter days and colder months can also cause depression for some.)
“From a sociological lens, our emotions are tied inextricably to the meaning that we make about ourselves, others, events and times of year.”
In other words, we imbue football season or holidays like Thanksgiving and Rosh Hashannah with meaning, and by cherishing those memories with people we love and enjoy, we build an idea about what the fall comes to represent. Thus, we look forward to this season in a particularly special way.
So if you can’t wait to hit the ground running in suede booties, pumpkin spice latte in hand and crunchy leaves under foot – it’s perfectly normal. It sounds like you were just raised that way.