Can your name determine whether you’re successful or not?

And I don’t mean being born with the last name “Kennedy”, “Gates” or “Buffett.”

Can name alone really affect success? Absolutely.

If voters don’t know anything about a politician’s stances on issues, they vote for the one with the nice-sounding name:

The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether the attractiveness of political candidates’ names would influence voter preferences, both when only the names were known and when politically relevant information was provided. The names and platforms of candidates in an actual election in which victory was attributed to a name effect were used in a straw poll of undergraduate subjects. Results showed a clear name effect when only names were presented. However, abstention was also quite common in this condition. When candidates’ issue positions were also described, the name effect faded to nonsignificance. The results highlight the efficacy of relevant information in overcoming spurious influences on decisions.

Source: Voting in Ignorance: “The Politics of Smooth-Sounding Names” from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology

And your name can crater your chances at success too:

In five studies, we found that people like their names enough to unconsciously pursue consciously avoided outcomes that resemble their names. Baseball players avoid strikeouts, but players whose names begin with the strikeout-signifying letter K strike out more than others (Study 1). All students want As, but students whose names begin with letters associated with poorer performance (C and D) achieve lower grade point averages (GPAs) than do students whose names begin with A and B (Study 2), especially if they like their initials (Study 3). Because lower GPAs lead to lesser graduate schools, students whose names begin with the letters C and D attend lower-ranked law schools than students whose names begin with A and B (Study 4). Finally, in an experimental study, we manipulated congruence between participants’ initials and the labels of prizes and found that participants solve fewer anagrams when a consolation prize shares their first initial than when it does not (Study 5). These findings provide striking evidence that unconsciously desiring negative name-resembling performance outcomes can insidiously undermine the more conscious pursuit of positive outcomes.

Source: “Moniker Maladies: When Names Sabotage Success” from “Psychological Science”

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About Eric Barker