How Our Names Shapes Who We Are In Life

Your Name is Your Brand

An episode of Pregnant in Heels showed an elite couple hiring think-tanks to give their future son a name that would support the ‘brand’ they wanted for him. They wanted him to be perceived as worldly,  wise and attractive.  Got me thinking – how important is a name? Yeah, we may know some jerk named  Chet and will subconsciously hate anyone we meet with the same name – but what else is there to a name? 

The characteristics of a name

Albert Mehrabian is a leading researcher in names. He has developed a system to categorize names on four dimensions:
successful, and
When someone reads your name, they are already making associations between your name and these four characteristics.

How We Judge Someone By Their Name

Mehrabiam says that we will be impacted by the name if it is the same as a historical figure (e.g. Moses, Queen Elizabeth).  We also will consider the harshness and softness of sounds, the visual image of a letter and choice of letter at the beginning and end of a name.
The spelling of the name and letter combinations also matters according to David Figlio (an economics and education professor at Northwestern University) – they way names are spelled are associated with the socio-economic status of the person (and their parents).  It is also shown that we will link their name to a ‘class rating’ for example treating a Billie-Jo different than a Katherine.


How You Live Your Life

It’s more how others shape you.

“Psychological research has shown that people view some names as more desirable than others, associating some with success and others with a tendency for failure. It is thought that people transmit these character expectations via subtle verbal and non-verbal communication which then affects the way we perceive ourselves and consequently the way we act. Those that like their first names tend to have a good self-concept and go on to lead fulfilling lives, whereas those who aren’t so keen tend to have a poorer self image and lead less ‘successful’ lives.”(source)

Your Self Perception

According to a new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, data gathered from 12,000 adults found a “bad name” decreases self-esteem, makes you feel lonelier and even less intelligent.

Others View of You

We judge a book by its cover and apparently, a person’s attractiveness by their name. According to a US and UK Study, they found that a name makes an average six per cent difference in terms of attractiveness to the opposite sex.  Short names for men are more attractive and long flowing names for women are more attractive.

School Playground Misbehaviour

Figlio has noted a correlation between boys with feminine sounding names (Ashley, Shannon) and their increased likelihood of misbehaving and acting out in intermediate school.

Other’s Assessment of Your Academic Ability

Figlio indicated that there are names viewed as “linguistically low-status”. According to America’s National Bureau of Economic Research, teachers treat kids with these ‘low status’ names differently to their peers – they are more likely to be referred for special education, less likely to be recognized as gifted and they perform poorer on tests.

The Careers You Pursue

Figlio found that girls with more feminine names are more likely to shy away from math and sciences (even if they excel in them) and pursue humanities vs girls with more androgynous names. Another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicated that people chose careers that sounds similar to their first names. You know those really ironic times where you realize your dentist is named Dr.Brush or something weird like that. It is a phenomenon, there is even a name for it, aptonyms.


More than a name

You might be able to save your kid some stereotypes and judgement if you stick with simple spelling and names. BUT what I think what matters most isn’t the name you give your kid. What matters more is what you tell them they are. What they hear about their identity is what they will grow into. When I say my daughter is so crafty, my youngest son is so mischevious, and my oldest is so observant – this is what is shaping them the very most.