Why Your Name Matters

The New Yorker:

In 1948, two professors at Harvard University published a study of thirty-three hundred men who had recently graduated, looking at whether their names had any bearing on their academic performance. The men with unusual names, the study found, were more likely to have flunked out or to have exhibited symptoms of psychological neurosis than those with more common names. The Mikes were doing just fine, but the Berriens were having trouble. A rare name, the professors surmised, had a negative psychological effect on its bearer.

That view, however, may not withstand closer scrutiny. The psychologist Uri Simonsohn, from the University of Pennsylvania, has questioned many of the studies that purport to demonstrate the implicit-egotism effect, arguing that the findings are statistical flukes that arise from poor methodology. “It’s like a magician,” Simonsohn told me.

In 2012, the psychologists Hui Bai and Kathleen Briggs concluded that “the name initial is at best a very limited unconscious prime, if any.” While a person’s name may unconsciously influence his or her thinking, its effects on decision-making are limited. Follow-up studies have also questioned the link between names and longevity, career choice and success, geographic and marriage preferences, and academic achievement.

Read the whole story: The New Yorker

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