Four studies demonstrate the potential influence of name similarity on perceptions of similarity to oneself in general, liking, and compliance. Some participants received a scenario in which the protagonist’s name was similar to their own. These participants indicated that the character was more similar to themselves, reported greater liking for the person, and expressed more willingness to comply with a request for help than control participants did. In addition, the persuasive influence of name similarity on questionnaire return rates indicated that both undergraduates and college professors completed and returned questionnaires more frequently if the name on the cover letter was similar to their own. The influence of name similarity was independent of name familiarity. The importance of name similarity in eliciting overt behavioral action is discussed.
Prior studies have found that name similarity can serve as a cue that favorably affects evaluations without conscious deliberation. In a series of four experiments, we show that name similarity can increase the conscious processing of information with which it is associated. When exposed to student resumes or advertised brands with names similar (versus dissimilar) to theirs, respondents were more likely to relate the information to themselves (self-reference, Experiments 2–4) and thoughtfully examine it. Evidence of thoughtful processing included slower reaction times when reviewing resumes and greater information recall (Experiment 1), spending more time in resume review (Experiment 2), greater evaluative differentiation between resumes and product brands of different quality (Experiments 2 and 3), and developing stronger brand attitudes (Experiment 4). An expanded view of how and why name similarity can affect persuasion is offered and discussed.
Source: “The effects of name similarity on message processing and persuasion” from Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 47, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 63-71
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