Psychology of Names


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I remember sitting in my AP Statistics class as my teacher fought to defend her case that certain names "bring out" certain traits in individuals. How could that be? How could all "Ashley's" worldwide have distinctly similar qualities? This discussion took place two years ago, and since we did not come to a specific consensus, I stayed wondering from that point on.  
I never thought I would be given the opportunity to present this question ever again because, quite frankly, it has nothing to do with anything I've learned in college, and I doubt anyone really cares. However, SC200 has given me the freedom to research something that interests me, no matter how useless and uninteresting others may find it to be. I am also a poet. 
So, is it really possible that certain names or titles convey certain messages? Surprisingly, yes! It may not be as casual as, "All Ashley's are alike," but there are many instances in which "words convey symbolic ideas beyond their meaning", as stated here! This website gives interesting scenarios of when certain words have the ability to shape our thoughts and perspectives. For example, the website shows the two pictures posted below then asks readers to label one as "maluma" and the other as "takete". You try!
Psychnames.png
I would assume that most, if not all of you, labeled the left image as "maluma", and the right as "takete". This proves Köhler's theory that words can potentially indirectly shape thought. 

Some studies have shown that even certain pronunciations rub people different ways. As found through a study by David Oppenheimer and Adam Alter, companies with less complex names, and thus easier to pronounce, received the greatest "post-release bump" when compared to companies with more complex names. 

On this site, I found information concerning proper names in particular, and their "fate". Now, although this is not an entirely proven fact, many psychologists and researchers have looked into these possibilities. 

What I find most interesting about this website's information is that the topics presented can easily be explained through one of the possible correlations: direct causality, reverse causality, confounding variables, and chance. For example, one scenario explains how a study conducted in 2006 shows that individuals with initials early in the alphabet were more likely to achieve success. This "alphabetic discrimination" was said to be even stronger back in the day, when students would sit in alphabetical order. This could have unintentionally placed students with earlier initials in the front of the classroom, which would force them to be more attentive and behaved. 

What is not too clear to me about this study is that the article does not present the possibility of direct or reversed causality, confounding variables, or chance. For instance, if students sat in alphabetical order by columns, the earliest initials of the alphabet would not necessarily be in the front of the room. In order for this idea to hold true, students would have to sit in alphabetical order across the rows, thus putting letters M-Z toward the back (stay with me here). If this were the case, then the success of the students with earliest initials in the alphabet would be due to mere chance. 

So how much of an impact do names have on our shaping of thoughts, perspectives, and potential success? I think I'm more confused than I was before I began and if the alphabet initials idea holds true, I may be doomed. 
- JT

2 Comments

The idea of names determining your fate is definitely a very interesting one! Here is an article I think you will enjoy.

"Figlio found that teachers treat kids with low-status names differently: they’re more likely to be referred for special education, less likely to be recognized as gifted and they perform poorer on tests, according to research published in 2005 by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Names may even help predict career paths. When Figlio studied sisters who were both good at math, he discovered that those with more linguistically feminine names were more likely to shy away from math and science and stick with humanities classes compared to their siblings with linguistically androgynous names. If you’re set on your daughter Anastasia becoming a doctor, you’ll have to be extra vigilant to fight any cultural stereotypes. “She may become the English major and her sister, Jordan, may become the bio major,” says Figlio. “That’s happening at rates that are too big to ignore.”

I think you might be on to something! Let's just have a moment of silence for North West...

Mark

I found this post to be very interesting. Although, I would like not to do it, sometimes I have an automatic assumption about a person because of their name. What I found most interesting about this post is the "Maluma" and "Takete" exercise. For some reason, I associated the word "Maluma" with a rounder object because of the way it forces you to shape your mouth. On the other hand, I associated Takete with a more stagnant & structured object. It is interesting to find, that not only do I think that way, but so does the majority of others. Below is a YouTube link. In it, a pompous mother describes how she creates assumptions based off of children's names and therefore will base whether or not her child is allowed to associate with them strictly off of that information.
Enjoy!
http://youtu.be/eKChS1fuLKc

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