Your Name May Tweak Your Destiny

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Nov. 15, 2007 — Your name may help put you at the head of the class orleave you in the strikeout column, a new study shows.

The researchers report that MBA students whose first or last names startwith the letters A or B tend to make better grades than those whose names startwith C or D.

What’s more, Major League baseball players whose names begin with the letterK strike out more often than those whose names don’t start with K, the letterused to record strikeouts.

So say Leif Nelson, PhD, and Joseph Simmons, PhD, in December’s edition ofPsychological Science.

Nelson works at the Rady School of Management at the University ofCalifornia at San Diego. Simmons works at Yale University’s School ofManagement.

Together, they studied the effect that certain initials have on certainmeasurements of success.

They also found that law school applicants whose names began with A or Bwere more likely to get into top-ranked law schools than those with otherinitials.

What gives with the name game?

Nelson and Simmons suggest that people have a subtle bias toward the lettersin their monogram.

“For example,” they write, “Toby is more likely to buy a Toyota,move to Toronto, and marry Tonya than is Jack, who is more likely to buy aJaguar, move to Jacksonville, and marry Jackie.”

So they reason that Christine may not find a C grade quite so bad asAnna.

To test the theory, the researchers presented online word puzzles to 225people. Before tackling the puzzles, the researchers mentioned prizes forsuccess or consolation prizes for failures.

The prizes were labeled with a letter, such as “Prize X.”

When their first names matched the initial on the consolation prize, theysolved fewer puzzles.

Of course, the researchers aren’t suggesting that anyone judge a person bytheir name.

There’s no reason Kevin couldn’t be a baseball star. And the theory doesn’tcover the whole alphabet, so William and Zena aren’t doomed to bad grades.


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