The Super-Weird Way Your NAME Subconsciously Affects How You Act

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Our given names influence our lives in all sorts of strange ways.

Your given name can affect the decisions you make without you even being aware of it. If your name is Dennis or Denise, you could become a dentist. And if your name is Jose, you could live in San Jose.

We're subconsciously attracted to people, places, and things that resemble ourselves, and it might have to do with something called Implicit Egotism. Implicit Egotism is a theory in psychology that asserts that most people associate positively with themselves, and therefore tend to prefer things that are connected to themselves. 

In the study, "Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions," social psychologists Brett W. Pelham, Matthew C. Mirenberg, and John. T. Jones looked into how our names affect the type of people we become, and the decisions we make.

Pelham's theory is that our names, as words we intrinsically associate with, might influence significant life choices we make, such as where we live and what occupation to pursue. 

He conducted ten different studies to this effect: a phenomenon that measures implicit self-esteem based on nominal associations with the alphabet. In the name letter effect, participants are given a list of letters and told to arbitrarily select their favorites. In almost all cases, cross-culturally and linguistically, participants tend to prefer letters from their first name.

The researchers identified the 40 largest cities in the United States by consulting the 1990 census, and found all common male and female first names that shared a minimum of their first three letters with any of the city names.

According to Pelham, "The resulting name-city combinations for women were Mildred-Milwaukee, and Virginia-Virginia Beach. The resulting combinations for men were Jack-Jacksonville and Philip-Philadelphia."

There's another psychological theory that goes along with this called the Name Letter Effect, which measures implicit self-esteem based on associations with the alphabet.

For this theory, participants were given a list of letters and told to arbitrarily select their favorites. In almost all cases, cross-culturally and linguistically, participants tend to prefer letters in their first name.

In a video from PBS Digital Studios BrainCraft series, science reporter Vanessa Hill says, "We write our names thousands of times throughout our lives. The more we are merely exposed to something like those letters, the more we like them."

Here, Vanessa explains Implicit Egotism and the Name Letter Effect in an easy way to understand:

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In the end, it seems as if there's much more to names than we realize.