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: people with easier-to-pronounce names often have higher-status positions at work. Psychologist Adam Alter: "When we can process a piece of information more easily, when it's easier to comprehend, we come to like it more."
A common or familiar name, is more likely to be hired.
Victoria University, New Zealand: the easier a name is to pronounce, the more trustworthy people will assume the person is. And the reverse is also true - the more complicated a name is, the more untrustworthy it will seem. Previous studies: people with more familiar names tend to be rated as more likable, are preferred as mock election candidates, and hold higher positions. Immigrants to the USA who had changed their names to better blend into their new environment (changing the Russian Artyom to the more American John) fared better in the job market and achieved higher incomes than those who stuck with their native names.
A resume submitted under a name perceived as unusual gets less attention from potential employers than the identical resume bearing a more common name. The Atlantic: names like Emily Walsh and Greg Baker got nearly 50% more callbacks than names like Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones. 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. 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. Slate.com: Kids with unusual variations on a common name are slower to spell and read. Northwestern University: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.
Whether a name sounds boyish or girly can affect success at school.
Northwestern University: high school boys with feminine names like Shannon and Ashley tend to misbehave and become disruptive, probably because of anger resulting from teasing and self-consciousness. 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.
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.
People are unconsciously drawn to things, people, and places that sound like their own names - 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. One explanation 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. Some examples:
• Igor Judge - Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.
• John Laws - British Lord Justice of Appeal.
• Jennifer Justice - a music industry lawyer.
• 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.
• Russell Brain - British neurologist who wrote about the brain.
• Stephanie Payne, Randall Toothaker - dentists.
• Scott Pett - veterinarian in Massachusetts.
• Kim Furr - veterinarian in South Carolina.
• Carla Dove - ornithologist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
• Mitchell A. Byrd - ornithologist.
• Nick Rock - head of the Geology Department, University of Western Australia.
• Ron Rumble - acoustical and vibration engineer.
• James W. Dean - dean of the Business School at UNC.
• Prince Fielder - baseball player, Milwaukee Brewers.
• Usain Bolt
• 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.
• Marietta Clinkscales - piano teacher whose pupils included Duke Ellington.
• Anne and Frank Webb - founded the British Tarantula Society.
• Ed and Sharon House - 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,