Home > Science > So still technically your mom’s fault*

So still technically your mom’s fault*

2009/07/06

Here’s a quick overview of research into the impact of a person’s initials on various aspects of success in life:

Theorists argue there is a kind of implicit egoism at work. We unconsciously prefer our own names because they are associated with ourselves and most people like themselves. That this effect isn’t down to a kind of novelty-seeking is borne out by the fact that people are choosing worse outcomes. The vast majority of people wouldn’t consciously choose to get a ‘D’, go to a poor law school, or only win the consolation prize.

This effect may well have a small but measurable influence in all sorts of situations. One that has been investigated recently is the association between people’s initials and their tendency to work for companies that start with the same letter.

Anseel and Duyck (2008) obtained a database containing one-third of all private sector employees in Belgium, over half a million names, then they looked at their employers’ names. They found as predicted that people were more likely to work for companies with initials matching their own, especially if their initials and the company’s were unusual such as Q or Y.

via psyblog.

So clearly I am not working in the right place—my current place of work doesn’t contain either of my initials anywhere in the name. I’ll have to add that into the job search rubric since this is totally better than astrology. And, even better, it’s my parents’ fault, having given me my name. I do wish, however, that they had published some easily accessible numbers to back up these statements; how many more people worked with companies with matching initials? Does this apply to first names, surnames, middle names, all three or any one of the names? What if I’ve gone by Pingo, like the Danish crown prince, for all of my life? Would I unconsciously associate with options or companies or whatever else that started with P even if that was not one of my formal names?

Finally, does this apply to book buying? Or is that just simple statistics—if more people have last names starting with A-M then we would expect more books to be published by authors A-M and thus more books bought by those authors. I make it a point to start at the end of the alphabet every so often to support my fellow N-Z minority, even though I have absolutely no proof of this. Probably just the pattern-matching tendencies gone awry.

* I actually rather like my name, so no worries, mom.

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