The influence of one's name on their development and status
We usually don't choose the names we carry, but they have an immense and often hidden effect on our lives. Your name can either help or hinder you and can greatly influence your personal and professional life. Our names are badges bearing information about our class, education level, and ethnic origin - or at least those of our parents. Studies have shown that people make different assumptions about a boy named Tyrone than it does about one named Philip, and while those assumptions are often wrong, they can have a considerable influence on the course of a life. A name can even exert unconscious influence over a person's own choices. Some researchers contend that there are disproportionately large numbers of dentists named Dennis and lawyers named Lauren, and that it's not purely an accident that Dr. Douglas Hart chose cardiology or that the Greathouse family of West Virginia runs a real-estate firm. The Romans had the expression nomen est omen, or name is destiny.
Names influence perceptions
We have preconceived notions about names - which ballerina do you think is more graceful - Bertha or Anastasia? Mildred or Allison? Names may influence how we perceive ourselves and others because of racial, class, or geographical stereotypes. Anastasia conjures up qualities like attractive, graceful, and sophisticated; descriptors that don't fit a Bertha.
• Vanna is considered dumb, Jacqueline is elegant, and Jacob is religious, old-fashioned, and quiet. Some other research findings:
• In callbacks by interviewers, Bambi, Tiffany, and Lashonda did not fare very well, even though resume content was identical to those names that were deemed more marketable.
• Ethel, Harriet, and Gertrude scored worse on tests, but would earn higher pay - we perceive that they are more serious and competent. Kathy, Jennifer, and Christine scored higher but would earn lower pay.
• Jimmy Carter would have been taken more seriously as President if he had gone by Jim, and even more if he had gone by James. A president of the United States named Jimmy?
William Shakespeare wrote, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Maybe, but our perception of aroma from that flower would likely be influenced by its name.
But, "names only have a significant influence when that is the only thing you know about the person," says psychologist Dr. Martin Ford. "Add a picture, and the impact of the name recedes. Add information about personality, motivation, and ability, and the impact of the name shrinks to minimal significance." Condoleezza Rice's name might have held her back, but she was so smart, talented, and driven that she became secretary of state. On the other hand, there are people like Sue Yoo of Los Angeles, who grew up with people telling her, "Oh my god, that's your name, you should totally become a lawyer." Today she's an attorney. "Psychologically," she says, her name probably "helped me decide to go in that direction."
It certainly seems unfair, but names create expectations that powerfully influence one's development.
If a name is easy to pronounce, people will favor that person more.
Australian study: people tend to have better impressions of co-workers and political candidates whose names they can pronounce easily. New York University study: people with easier-to-pronounce names often have higher-status positions at work. Psychologist Adam Alter explains, "When we can process a piece of information more easily, when it's easier to comprehend, we come to like it more." Companies with simpler names and ticker symbols tended to perform better in the stock market.
A common or familiar name, is more likely to be hired.
Victoria University in New Zealand: the easier your name is to pronounce, the more trustworthy people will assume you are. And the reverse is also true - the more complicated your name is, the more untrustworthy you will seem. Newman explains that when we encounter new information, how easy or difficult it is to process plays an important role. "From other research, we know that people think that food additives with easier names are safer than those with difficult names. So we don't think it is a stereotype about foreign names. Instead, we think that the easy names just feel more familiar or easy to process than the difficult names. To the Fred Flintstone parts of our brains, that feeling of ease or familiarity signals something that we can trust, but information that's difficult to process signals danger."
Previous studies have shown that people with more familiar names tend to be rated as more likeable, are preferred as mock election candidates, and hold higher positions. Our hidden biases have the potential to affect many aspects of our daily lives, both professional and personal. "In the work force, it might affect which CVs out of a giant pile float to the top, and in the news or politics, certain messages may carry more weight if attributed to an easy name," explains Newman. One study in particular found that immigrants to the United States who had changed their names to better blend into their new environment - for example, by changing the Russian name "Artyom" to the more American-sounding "John" - fared better in the job market and achieved higher incomes than those who stuck with their native names.
A résumé submitted under a name perceived as unusual, such as Lakesia Washington, gets less attention from potential employers than the identical résumé bearing a more common name, like Mary Roberts. Marquette University: names that were viewed as the least unique were more likable. In situations where the name is all that is known, people with common first names were more likely to be hired than those with unique ones. Those with rare names were least likely to be hired. Some parents, in this era of individual self-expression, view commonplace names like Thomas or Jane as boring and uncreative. Slate.com: "For some parents, picking out a baby name is like curating the perfect bookshelf or outfit. It should telegraph refinement, exclusivity, and uniqueness." Kids with unusual variations on a common name are slower to spell and read, which “suggests a lot about internalizing," Researcher at Northwestern University: “You have the child named Jennifer spelled with a ‘G' - her teacher says, ‘Are you sure your name is spelled that way?' That can be incredibly hard on a person's confidence." LinkedIn: The most common names for men in CEO positions were short, often one-syllable names like Bob, Jack, Bruce. Men in power may use nicknames to offer a sense of friendliness and openness.
Uncommon names are associated with juvenile delinquency.
Shippensburg University: regardless of race, young people with unpopular names were more likely to engage in criminal activity. Adolescents with unpopular names may be more prone to crime because they are treated differently by their peers, making it more difficult for them to form relationships. Juveniles with unpopular names may also act out because they dislike their names.A study of psychiatric records found that those with unusual names were more likely to be diagnosed psychotic, while recent research has shown that boys with the least popular names are more likely to commit crime.
An Anglo-sounding name is more likely to get hired.
Cited by The Atlantic: names like Emily Walsh and Greg Baker got nearly 50% more callbacks than names like Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones. A white-sounding name is worth up to 8 years of work experience. Kids with names that sound “ghetto" or “poor" do worse in school, are less likely to be recommended for gifted classes, and are more likely to be pegged as learning disabled - even if they come from middle-class homes. “Those kids ended up being treated differently."
Whether a name sounds boyish or girly can affect success at school.
David Figlio, Northwestern University: boys with names that could also be girls' names tend to misbehave and become disruptive as soon as they hit high school. The Atlantic: in male-dominated fields such as engineering and law, women with gender-neutral names may be more successful. women with "masculine names" like Leslie, Jan, or Cameron tended to be more successful in legal careers. Girls with more feminine names were more likely to take advanced classes in humanities, while those with male names like Morgan tended toward math and science. Boys with “girl" names like Shannon and Ashley were more likely to develop disciplinary problems, probably because of anger resulting from teasing and self-consciousness.
A middle initial makes people think one is smarter and more competent.
European Journal of Social Psychology: a middle initial increases people's perceptions of one's intellectual capacity and performance. Students were asked to rate an essay with one of four styles of author names. The authors with a middle initial receive the highest marks.
Research indicates that people are unconsciously drawn to things, people, and places that sound like their own names. Psychologist Dr. Brett Pelham, an analyst for Gallup: people have a tendency to follow professions that resemble their first names, meaning that lawyers called Laura and dentists named Dennis are especially common. Psychiatrist Carl Jung noted that his colleague Sigmund Freud (German for "joy") advocated the pleasure principle, Alfred Adler ("eagle") the will to power, and he himself ("young") the "idea of rebirth."
Nominative determinism is the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate towards areas of work that fit their names. An early use of the term was in the magazine New Scientist in 1994, after someone noted several studies carried out by researchers with remarkably fitting surnames. These and other examples led to light-hearted speculation that some sort of psychological effect was at work. Since the term appeared, nominative determinism has been an irregularly recurring topic in New Scientist, as readers continue to submit examples. Nominative determinism differs from the related conceptaptronym, and its synonyms aptonym, namephreak, and Perfect Fit Last Name, in that it focusses on causality. "Aptronym" merely means the name is fitting, without saying anything about why it has come to fit.
The idea that people are drawn to professions that fit their name was suggested by psychologist Carl Jung, citing as an example Sigmund Freud who studied pleasure and whose surname means "joy". A few recent empirical studies have indicated that certain professions are disproportionately represented by people with appropriate surnames (and sometimes given names), though the methods of these studies have been challenged. One explanation for nominative determinism is implicit egotism, which states that humans have an unconscious preference for things they associate with themselves. An alternative explanation is genetic: a person might be named Smith or Taylor because that was originally their occupation, and they would pass on their genes to their descendants, including an aptitude for activities involving strength in the case of Smith, or dexterity in the case of Taylor. The theory that a person's name has some influence over what they do with their life. A few examples:
Igor Judge - current Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.
John Laws - British Lord Justice of Appeal, which is also a judge position.
Jennifer Justice - a music industry lawyer. The most awesome legal name I know belongs to Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer
Amy Freeze - meteorologist in New York City.
Larry Sprinkle - weatherman in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Storm Field and his father Frank Field - meteorologists in NYC.
Richard (Dick) Chopp - urologist who performs vasectomies. At the same urology clinic: Dr. Hardeman and Dr. Wang.
Lee Popwell - chiropractor.
Richard Payne - expert in pain relief, particularly in terminal patients.
Gary Alter - plastic surgeon and urologist, which qualifies him to do gender reassignment surgery.
Russell Brain - British neurologist who wrote about the brain.
Stephanie Payne, Dan C. Pullen, Mark Pullen, Reid Pullen, Lee Pullen, Kyle Pullen, and Randall Toothaker.
Scott Pett - veterinarian in Massachusetts.
Kim Furr - veterinarian in South Carolina.
Carla Dove - Ornithologist, Division of Birds at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Mitchell A. Byrd - ornithologist who spends his time with various conservation organizations.
Nick Rock - head of the Geology Department at the University of Western Australia.
Ron Rumble - acoustical and vibration engineer.
Peter Jonathan Fryer - chemical engineer, field of research is the food industry.
James W. Dean - dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC.
Prince Fielder plays baseball for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Scott Speed and Lake Speed - race car drivers.
Svetlana Filippova - Russian springboard diver at the Beijing Olympics.
Marina Stepanova - a hurdler.
Anna Smashnova - Israel's top tennis player.
David Quick - journalist and marathon runner
Louise Story - writes stories for the New York Times.
Lieutenant General Sir Manley Power
Lance Corporal Rad Heroman
Marietta Clinkscales - piano teacher whose pupils included a young Duke Ellington.
Anne and Frank Webb founded the British Tarantula Society.
Ed and Sharon House are realtors in Las Vegas.
Sounds we hear as babies make an impact
Our name is one of the first words we hear repeated. The sound of the letters and syllables have impact. Crisp, sharp solid sounds sound strong, together, and confident. Soft mellow sounds are sweet. Unusual pairs are awkward and a bit annoying.
The iPhone name class project
iPhone, just didn't seem like an appropriate name for a product that is a mini-computer, music player, map machine, camera, email checker, and web browser. Once it was announced that Apple would be introducing the iPhone, but before it was unveiled, I assigned a graphic design class to develop a better name. They conducted research and talked with friends about some options.
Note: the 'i' stood for Internet when the original iMac was introduced as a truly user-friendly model for those who were still a bit afraid to use a computer. It was very simple to set up and operate. The prefix of the i became so connected to Apple Computer that they adopted it as a prefix for a variety of products, no longer representing 'Internet' but serving as an icon for Apple. This project was completed before the iPhone came out and now that it has become the new standard for such devices, the name is irrelevant. We have accepted the name, as inappropriate as it might be, and put it into our collective vernacular.
Apple pocket computer name objectives:
• Generic - Apple or Android
• Easy to spell, say, pronounce, remember
• Clear - convey device, make sense
• Graphic adaptability
• Legal availability.
A few submissions
iCon - the product would be icon-driven
iCom or iComm - it will be a tremendous communication tool
iPhone - we have already redefined the word phone to include cameras and texting
PocketMac, PocketCom, Pocket Computer
Handtop, Palmtop (desktop, laptop)
Compette: (disk, diskette)
ComputerPod, PodPuter, Telepod, TriPod
SmartFone, Fone: New meaning to familiar name, funky + phone,