The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘names’

The Situational Effect of Names

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 14, 2012

From Eureka Alert:

Having a simple, easy-to-pronounce name is more likely to win you friends and favour in the workplace, a study by Dr Simon Laham at the University of Melbourne and Dr Adam Alter at New York University Stern School of Business, has found.

In the first study of its kind, and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers analysed how the pronunciation of names can influence impression formation and decision-making. In particular, they demonstrated “the name pronunciation effect,” which occurs when people with easy–to-pronounce names are evaluated more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names.

The study revealed that:

  • People with more pronounceable names were more likely to be favoured for political office and job promotions
  • Political candidates with easy-to-pronounce names were more likely to win a race than those without, based on a mock ballot study
  • Attorneys with more pronounceable names rose more quickly to superior positions in their firm hierarchies, based on a field study of 500 first and last names of US lawyers

Lead author, Dr Simon Laham said subtle biases that we are not aware of affect our decisions and choices. “Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce,” he said.

Dr Adam Alter who conducted the law firm analysis said this effect probably also exists in other industries and in many everyday contexts. “People simply aren’t aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments,” Dr Alter said.

Dr Laham said the results had important implications for the management of bias and discrimination in our society.

“It’s important to appreciate the subtle biases that shape our choices and judgments about others. Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others,” he said.

Researchers conducted studies both in lab settings and in a natural environment using a range of names from Anglo, Asian, and Western and Eastern European backgrounds.

This research builds on Dr Alter’s earlier work, which suggests that financial stocks with simpler names tend to outperform similar stocks with complex names immediately after they appear on the market.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The Criminal Situation of Certain Names

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 2, 2009

baby-namesJohn Cloud of TIME Magazine has an interesting piece on a study finding that adolescent boys with unpopular names are likelier than other boys to be referred to the juvenile-justice system for alleged offenses. We excerpt it below.

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In the Shel Silverstein–penned Johnny Cash hit “A Boy Named Sue,” a father explains that he gave his son so improbable a name because “I knew you’d have to get tough or die, and it’s that name that helped to make you strong.” It turns out that your first name may also help make you a criminal.

In a new study to be published in the March issue of Social Science Quarterly, David Kalist and Daniel Lee, economists at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, find that adolescent boys with unpopular names are likelier than other boys to be referred to the juvenile-justice system for alleged offenses. The researchers conclude that the Ernests, Prestons and Tyrells of America are significantly more delinquent than the Michaels and Davids. Why? (See the top 10 crime stories of 2008.)

The short answer is that our names play an important role in shaping the way we see ourselves — and, more important, how others see us. Abundant academic literature proves these points. A 1993 paper found that most people perceive those with unconventionally spelled names (Patric, Geoffrey) as less likely to be moral, warm and successful. A 2001 paper found that we have a tendency to judge boys’ trustworthiness and masculinity from their names. (As a guy whose middle name is Ashley, I can attest to the second part.) In a 2007 paper (here’s a PDF), University of Florida economist David Figlio found that boys with names commonly given to girls are likelier to be suspended from school. And an influential 1998 paper co-authored by psychologist Melvin (a challenging first name if there ever was one) Manis of the University of Michigan reported that “having an unusual name leads to unfavorable reactions in others, which then leads to unfavorable evaluations of the self.”

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To read the rest of the piece, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “John Darley on “Justice as Intuitions” – Video,The Situation of a Name,” “Jock or Nerd? Where Did You Sit at the Dinner Table?,” and “Women’s Situation in Economics.”

Posted in Law, Life | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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