Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Impact Of A Name On Personality

Jack Dikian


Looking at yourself in the mirror – seeing the person you know so well. Better than anyone – this person called Kate, Kelly, or David. Would you feel the same way about yourself if you had a different given name? Would you still see the person you know so well…

Many of us at some point in our lives have wondered what we would be like if we were given a different name. If we went through school with a different name, if our work mates knew met us with a different name. Some of us may even feel that we are more of a Jennifer instead of a Jenny, or a Sarah with a “h” rather than a Sara.

Not only do some of us have strong perceptions about first names and associate them with success, luck and attractiveness, many people walk around with stereotypes in their heads that can influence all sorts of decisions, yet don't even realise it, however with very real consequences in everyday life.

This is particularly true in some cultures. For example, in the Jewish culture it is accepted that a name does indeed determine someone's destiny and health in general. Not only does a Jewish person feel that the given name characterizes the person who possesses it, he feels that when he/she gives a newborn son or daughter their given name, that offspring's basic personality and traits are being defined, and in a sense, his entire approach to life is mapped out for him in advance.

Having a rare name or a very common one must be a very different experience to live with. With a rare name, one may feel a little more special or even unique. With a common name, one is more likely to have friends (or foes) with the same name, which could only change our ego perception associated with our name.

More importantly, living with a name that we like or one that we dislike does have serious consequences on self-confidence, happiness or the way we relate to others in society. For example, what would it be like if you didn’t always get asked to special your name, or even explain your name when meeting people you don’t know.

According Dr Martin Skinner, a social psychologist at Warwick University, people by at large make the most of their given name. Dr Skinner says that efforts can overwhelm the impact of a name. The real consequence is not in the actual name itself, but in the intentions behind it," says Dr Martin Skinner, a social psychologist at Warwick University.

"Names usually reflect parental aspirations, so someone who wants their child to be taken seriously will give them a name that has weight and is not frivolous - whatever class they are."

A name certainly plays more of a part than we think, according to Dr Wiseman. While many factors influence how we view a name - from liking a successful actor to disliking your boss - these perception can have a very real impact.

Research has shown that such perceptions can become self-fulfilling prophesies, with teachers giving higher marks to children with attractive names and employers being more likely to promote those who sound successful, he says.

George Clooney regularly tops "gorgeous man" polls, yet his is the first name least associated with attractiveness, and luck in love according to studies, as is for Brian and Helen.

According to Wiseman, who, through his research asked more than 6,000 people about their perceptions of the most popular first names in the UK, observed some strong trends. Elizabeth and James are considered the most successful sounding first names, Lucy and Jack the luckiest and Sophie and Ryan the most attractive.

The author is particularly interested in the impact of given names in an ever-shrinking world. Names such as Elizabeth or a James that may be associated with success in the UK, might carry very different perceptions should Elizabeth or James decide to immigrate.

1 comment:

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