The One Thing You Share With Every Person Who Has Your Same Name

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The One Thing You Share With Every Person Who Has Your Same Name
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Before I got pregnant, I already knew exactly what I would name my daughter — Madison. Then I got pregnant... with a boy. And, for some odd reason, I'd never thought about boy names before.

My husband suggested baby names and I vetoed almost all of them immediately, and vice versa. It took months (almost all nine!) for us to finally agree on one.

Then, when we finally did and our son was born, it just... fit. It's hard to explain, but I can't imagine my son going by any other name than he does. 

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I can't tell you how many times people have met him and said to me, "Oh, he does look like a _____ (insert my son's name here)!"

Names are important. They can tell us so much about a person, both good and bad, and most names do tend to fit a person in one way or another. And, as it turns out, there may actually be a scientific reason why our names match our faces.

Think about it. Imagine a picture of Justin Bieber (not one of the naughty ones, just one of his face). Can you picture him with any other name? I can't. To me, he just looks like a Justin. 

So, here's the scoop. The results of a study published in 2017 in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that when people are shown a face and told five different names as options for each, they accurately select the matching face and name approximately 35 percent of the time.

That's a relatively high percentage, but Cathy Mondloch, a psychologist from Brock University in Canada, doesn't seem convinced. When asked her thoughts on the new research, she said, "Random chance would be 20 percent. I found that quite compelling."

However, she continued, "Parents influence our face because we're genetically related and they pick our names, too. I think a big component [of our appearance] is going to be from genetic inheritance, diet, and stress."

There are so many varied reasons behind the choices people make in naming their children, as well as why the people selecting the matching name and face chose as they did. 

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What's even more fascinating is that the results cross national barriers. French participants were able to accurately match French names with French faces, but not Israeli names with Israeli faces, and vice versa. “That suggests it’s something culturally specific,” Mondloch added.

A computer algorithm was generated to see what features those with the same name share. According to the computer analysis, people with the same name have similarities around their eyes and mouth.

When given a face with two names, the computer robot was able to guess the right name 60 percent of the time. (That's impressive.)

But, one of the authors of the study, Yonat Zwebner says, “We already know from previous research that names have stereotypes. For example, prior published studies show that in the U.S., you will evaluate a person named Katherine as more successful than a person named Bonnie. You will evaluate a person named Scott as more popular than Herman. Moreover, we know that people imagine a Bob to have a rounder face compared to a Tim.”

Zwebner also said that they did the experiment many times, with the same results. “We ran more than a dozen studies, and each time we had this feeling like, ‘Oh boy, maybe this time it won’t work.’ And each time, it worked. That was really surprising.”

And although Mondloch felt that there are other factors that go into our appearances besides our name, she still said, “The phenomenon is there, I do think.”

Zwebner herself admitted that she couldn't decide on a name after having her baby just a few weeks before the study was published. She said, “For the older kids, I wasn’t in this research, but now that I know the implications of choosing a name it was much harder. If we didn’t have to name her in the hospital, I think she would still not be named.”

She said that they eventually chose Lilac for their baby's name. 

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on March 9, 2018 and was updated with the latest information.

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Liza Walters is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, and relationship topics.

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