Hello My Name Is … 



Kennedy Torrez, Journalist

Your name is a huge part of your identity. It  can determine how people see you, how you act and what your future looks like. Something you may have been unaware of is it can determine your success, who you marry, the grades you earn, stocks you invest in, the school you’re accepted into, and also what you do with your money. Your name can even influence who you spend time with. 

In 1948 two professors at the University of Harvard published a study about three hundred men who had recently graduated. They looked to see if their names had any influence on their academic performance.  The study found that the men who had unusual names were more likely to have got lower grades or flunked out. However the men with more common names such as John or Mike were doing fine in school. The professors came to the conclusion that having a rare name can have a negative physiological effect on the person with the name. 

So why does our names impact us so much? The answer to this question is called the implicit-egotism effect. Meaning we are generally drawn to things or people that most relate or resemble us. We value the identities of our own names including our initials, how we got the name, who else shares the name and how the name sounds and we prefer things that have something in common with our name. For example when we go to the grocery store and have to choose between two different brands of cereal.  Like Frootloops or Cocoa Krispies, both taste good and both have unique packaging. I however may be more likely to buy the Cocoa Krispies verse the Frootloops not because they taste better but because there is a K in Krispies like there is a K in my name. Of course there are people that argue that this method does not retain them and that it is a fluke. Their method also can’t necessarily be measured. Think of this; if a lot of doctors are named John it doesn’t mean you will be a doctor to it just means the name is so common in each profession there are a lot of people with it.

What else can our name affect? Some scientists have come to the conclusion that our name can also affect the shape of our face. This falls under the Dorian Grey effect. In a novel called The Picture of Dorian Grey written by Oscar Wilde, the protagonist never ages. His portrait takes on the effects of a life of excess, which makes it a severely devastated canvas. In psychology, this effect named after the character in that novel, refers to the ways internal factors affect you physically. Researchers from Hebrew University in Jerusalem did a study because they wanted to figure out if stereotypes and labels also have a Dorian Grey effect on physical appearance.

More specifically they tested to see if the name of a person is given at birth impacts later physicality. Because the earliest label you are given is your name. This study hypothesized that this early label affects all those who bear the same name similarly. It has such a great effect that they predicted other people can match name to face based on expectations of how other people with the same name look. In other words, name stereotyping exists and manifests physically in facial appearance. In a sense your name is used as a shared social coding. Of course this doesn’t mean that this stereotyping could be done anywhere by anyone with no cultural familiarity.  Across eight different studies in two different countries the researchers found that both people and computers can pick the right name for any given face with more accuracy than would result from chance. In conclusion it means that common notions of how a person with a certain face would look where correct- there is a “right” name for a type of face. 

I asked a couple of students at South if they agreed with this. Is their name apart of their identity, and do they think certain people look like their name? I got various responses but here are a couple that stood out. One student who stated, “ No, I don’t think my name represents my identity.” Her name is uncommon and when you look it up it means Grace she said she is not graceful at all she is clumsy. Daniella Castaneda, another student at South said something similar.She didn’t believe that your name can represent your identity. “ No, because at any moment you can change your name , and your name is not a noun.”  However she did say she agreed that to some extent she agreed certain people looked like their names. One student at South said,” Certain names stick to you and people change their name all the time because they feel like their current name does not match their personality.” One person even said,” Some people have nicknames, that fit them way better than their actual name.”