Research identifies trends in everything from dating to shopping to voting.
Most people don’t choose their names, and many don’t even like them. Names are an integral part of who we are. They follow us everywhere we go, whether we like it or not. Surprisingly, research shows that our names may not only follow us but also lead. This could bias our choices towards name-resembling places, people, and things.
Researchers found that people are more likely to choose careers resembling their names in studies based on census data and other public documents. According to census data, Georgians were more likely than Walters and Jerrys to be dentists, while Georgians were more likely than expected to move to Georgia.
These patterns may indicate implicit self-esteem, our tendency to make positive associations with things that remind us of ourselves.
Since these studies were published, researchers have discovered many other surprising ways names can influence decisions. Here are six examples:
1. Romantic partners.
Researchers used marriage records of several U.S. States to find that people were more likely to marry someone whose last name was similar or the same. This pattern is unlikely due to a preference for a partner of the same race.
However, similar results were found when analyzing members within specific ethnic groups. Another study showed that men rated the online dating profile of a woman whose last names shared letters with theirs more positively than those who ordered a profile without the name resemblance.
2. Contributions to politics.
Researchers found that people with last names beginning with B were more likely to support the Bush campaign than those with last names starting with G. We might be more used to hearing the first names of candidates this cycle. Donald, the dentist, might have a slight advantage over Ted.
Although there is no evidence that people favor basic objects similar to their names, they prefer things with a name-resembling brand. One study found that participants preferred crackers brands that included the first three letters of their first names, followed by the stem “Oki Jonathan’s.
” Elizabeth was more inclined to choose “Janaki” than “Eliakim. (Researchers have observed that marketers could use this bias to target common-name-targeted ads.
Its an example is Baby Nursery business, where collectors suggest reborn baby nursery names and it increases their attachment with those dolls.
4. Places for employment.
Companies may be able to attract similar-named customers or at least initialed employees. According to one study, companies had a high proportion of employees whose names began with the same letter as their company name.
This bias can be seen at both the candidate and hiring levels. People who make hiring decisions may identify with their company and feel more positive toward those whose names are similar to the companies.
- Both success and failure.
Could it be that names are so powerful they can lead people to undesirable outcomes simply because these outcomes look like their names? Potentially. One study found that baseball players whose names started with K (which is for strikeout) were more likely than others to be struck out.
Another study found that students whose last names started with A or B had higher GPAs than students whose names began in C or D. They also solved fewer anagrams if the consolation prize was labeled using their first initials (e.g., “Prize E” to Edward).
- Charitable donations.
generosity may also be affected by names. One study showed that people who shared their initials with a hurricane named (e.g., K for Katrina) were more likely to donate to disaster relief efforts. These results raise the possibility of hurricane names impacting the number of donations.
Words that start with common letters may be more likely to receive more support overall, while those with lesser-known letters might not reach their fundraising potential.
Important to remember that these patterns are only applicable at an aggregate level. They don’t always apply when predicting the behavior of an individual. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your name is Dennis.
Many factors have an impact on our major life decisions. Your name might not be as important as other factors. Name-similarity might be a factor in deciding whether you make the right choice if the alternatives are not relatively equal at different levels.