Is Your Name to Blame for All Your Problems?

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As Juliet bemoans the grudge her family has against Romeo's based on their names, she says, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Apparently, there's a lot more in a name than Juliet thought—especially if your name is Mandy or Kevin. A study finds that people with these names—and other "bad" names—are unpopular on dating sites and tend to have poorer self esteem, are lonelier, are less intelligent, and even smoke more.

Researchers from Duke University, Humboldt University, and Max Planck Research School created several experiments using the European dating website, eDarling. In one, the researchers sent an email to 12,000 members. The messages featured matches that exactly mirrored the criteria of each dater and included a person's name, age, and location. Because all the other details were identical to what each dater was looking for, their rejections were based on names only. The researchers discovered that people prefer being alone than being with someone with an unbecoming name.

In a second trial, the researchers sent emails without photos to 47,000 German daters. Names like Alexander and Charlotte carried more valence (read: seemed sexier), and these profiles received 102 percent more views than people with less sexy names. Then the researchers compared names to teacher assessments of students and found that those with unattractive names acted more quarrelsome and performed poorly in school, causing the researchers to propose named-based life histories, which include neglect, discrimination, prejudice, and ostracism.

"Supporting this argument, neglect mediated the relation between negative names and lower self-esteem, more frequent smoking, and less education. These results are consistent with the name-based interpersonal neglect hypothesis: Negative names evoke negative interpersonal reactions, which in turn influence people's life outcomes for the worse," the authors wrote in the paper published in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science.

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January 24, 2012 - 9:22am
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