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A simpler name may help you get ahead

Feb. 11, 2012
Courtesy of the University of Melbourne
and World Science staff

Hav­ing a sim­ple, eas­y-to-pronounce name may help you win you friends and fa­vor in the work­place, new re­search sug­gests.

“Peo­ple simply aren't aware of the sub­tle im­pact that names can have on their judg­ments,“ said re­searcher Ad­am Al­ter of New York Uni­vers­ity, who col­la­bo­rat­ed on the stu­dy. 

The re­sults in­di­cat­ed that peo­ple with eas­i­er names are more likely to be fa­vored for po­lit­i­cal of­fice and job pro­mo­tions and—based on a mock bal­lot—to win elec­tions. “The ef­fect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or un­usu­al it is, but rath­er how easy it is to pro­nounce,” said Si­mon La­ham of the Uni­vers­ity of Mel­bourne, Aus­tral­ia, who co-authored the work.

The study is pub­lished in The Jour­nal of Ex­pe­ri­men­tal So­cial Psy­chol­o­gy.

As part of it, Al­ter an­a­lyzed 500 first and last names of U.S. lawyers and found that those with more pro­nounce­a­ble names rose more quickly up the ranks in their firms. The ef­fect probably ex­tends to oth­er in­dus­tries and eve­ry­day con­texts, he said.

“It's im­por­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate the sub­tle bi­ases that shape our choices and judg­ments about oth­ers,” he added. “Such an ap­precia­t­ion may help us de-bias our think­ing, lead­ing to fairer, more ob­jec­tive treat­ment of oth­ers.”

The re­search­ers said they con­ducted stud­ies both in lab set­tings and in a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment us­ing a range of names from An­glo, Asian, and West­ern and East­ern Eu­ro­pe­an back­grounds. The re­search builds on ear­li­er work by Al­ter that found fi­nan­cial stocks with sim­pler names tend to out­per­form si­m­i­lar stocks with com­plex names right af­ter they ap­pear on the mar­ket.


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Having a simple, easy-to-pronounce name may help you win you friends and favour in the workplace, new research suggests. “People simply aren't aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments,“ said researcher Adam Alter of New York University, who collaborated on the study. The results indicated that people with easier names are more likely to be favoured for political office and job promotions and—based on a mock ballot—to win elections. “The effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce,“ added Simon Laham of the University of Melbourne, Australia, who co-authored the work. The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. As part of it, Alter analyzed 500 first and last names of U.S. lawyers and found that those with more pronounceable names rose more quickly to superior positions in their firms. The effect probably extends to other industries and in everyday contexts, he said. “It's important to appreciate the subtle biases that shape our choices and judgments about others,“ he added. “Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others.“ The researchers said they conducted studies both in lab settings and in a natural environment using a range of names from Anglo, Asian, and Western and Eastern European backgrounds. The research builds on earlier work by Alter that found financial stocks with simpler names tend to outperform similar stocks with complex names right after they appear on the market.