intellectual vanities… about close to everything

“Moniker Maladies” – Initials Linked To Success, Study Shows

with one comment

Do you like your name and initials? Most people do and, as past research has shown, sometimes we like them enough to influence other important behaviors. For example, Jack is more likely to move to Jacksonville and marry Jackie than is Philip who is more likely to move to Philadelphia and marry Phyllis. Scientists call this phenomenon the “name-letter effect” and argue that it is influential enough to encourage the pursuit of name-resembling life outcomes and partners, obviously: since biblical times.😉

name_d1.gif

However, if you like your name too much, you might be in trouble. Leif Nelson at the University of California, San Diego and colleague Joseph Simmons from Yale University, found that liking your own name sabotages success for people whose initials match negative performance labels.

In their first study, Nelson and Simmons investigated the effect of name resemblance on batters’ strikeouts. In baseball, strikeouts are recorded using the letter ‘K.’ After analyzing Major League Baseball players’ performance spanning 93 years, the researchers found that batters whose names began with ‘K’ struck out at a higher rate than the remaining batters. “Even Karl ‘Koley’ Kolseth would find a strikeout aversive, but he might find it a little less aversive than players who do not share his initials, and therefore he might avoid striking out less enthusiastically,” write the authors.

In a second study, the researchers investigated the phenomenon in academia. Letter grades are commonly used to measure students’ performance, with the letters ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ and ‘D’ denoting different levels of performance. Nelson and Simmons reviewed 15 years of grade point averages (GPAs) for M.B.A. students graduating from a large private American university.

Students whose names began with ‘C’ or ‘D’ earned lower GPAs than students whose names began with ‘A’ or ‘B.’ Students with the initial ‘C’ or ‘D,’ presumably because of an unconscious fondness for these letters, were slightly less successful at achieving their conscious academic goals.

Interestingly, students with the initial ‘A’ or ‘B’ did not perform better than students whose initials were grade irrelevant. Therefore, having initials that match hard-to-achieve positive outcomes, like acing a test, may not necessarily cause an increase in performance. However, after analyzing law schools, the researchers found that as the quality of schools declined, so did the proportion of lawyers with name initials ‘A’ and ‘B.’

The researchers confirmed these findings in the laboratory with an anagram test. The result of the test confirmed that when people’s initials match negative performance outcomes, performance suffers. These results, appearing in the December issue of Psychological Science, provide striking evidence that unconscious wants can insidiously undermine conscious pursuits.

Source:
Nelson, Leif D. and Simmons, Joseph P.,
“Moniker Maladies: When Names Sabotage Success” (March 17, 2007).
Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=946249

Abstract:
People like their names enough to unconsciously approach consciously-avoided name-resembling outcomes. Baseball players avoid strikeouts, but players with strikeout-signifying K-initials strike out more than others (Study 1). All students want A’s, but C- and D-initialed students find initial-resembling outcomes less aversive and achieve lower GPAs (Study 2), particularly if they like their initials (Study 3). Because lower GPAs lead to lesser graduate schools, C- and D-initialed students go to lower ranked law schools than their A- and B-initialed counterparts (Study 4). Finally, in an experimental design, participants perform worse when a consolation prize shares their first initial (Study 5). These findings provide striking evidence that unconscious wants can insidiously undermine conscious pursuits.

Written by huehueteotl

November 15, 2007 at 4:00 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The explanation why “F” was not part of the study is inadequate (footnote). Comparison with other letters individually and not as a group “others” may be similar to the outcome of C and D. Anyways, more arguments/ sample errors, I’m sure can be found I think the study still needs more tuning up before I can accept its validity. (did not expect a study like this coming from princeton Phd’s . Its a good news grabber only…

    mdusa

    November 18, 2007 at 9:18 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: