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Sunday, 11 October 2020

Why the name matters so much

Why the name matters so much



In 1948, two Harvard University professors published a study of 3,300 men who had recently graduated from university. Scientists have tried to find out if a person's name affects his academic performance. According to the results of this study, young people with unusual names were excluded from the university or showed symptoms of neurotic disorders more often than those whose names were more traditional. The Maiks tended to do well, while the Berriens were in constant trouble. Scientists have concluded that rare names have a negative psychological impact on their speakers.

After the publication of the results of this study in 1948, many scientists continued to study the effect of the name on a person, and after several decades, the conclusions of its authors were repeatedly confirmed. The authors of some new studies argue that the name can affect the choice of profession, place of residence, spouse, on grades at school, on whether we can get to a particular school or take a particular position, as well as the quality of our work in team. Our name even influences whether we donate money to help victims of any disaster: according to the results of one study, if a person's name begins with the same letter as the name of a hurricane, he is much more likely to donate money to elimination of its consequences.

However, this theory on closer examination turns out to be untenable. Psychologist Uri Simonsohn of the University of Pennsylvania questioned the results of many studies designed to demonstrate the effect of hidden selfishness, saying that the scientists' conclusions are statistically flawed due to flawed methodology. “It's like a magician,” he explained to me. “He's showing you a trick, and you know it's just an illusion, but how did he do it? The answer lies in the methodology. " In his opinion, the shortcomings of these studies lie in ignoring basic information - that is, the frequency with which a particular phenomenon, such as a name, occurs within a particular society. You may find it very tempting that a person named Dan is highly likely to choose the profession of a doctor, but we have to ask ourselves if there are so many doctors among the Dan, because Dan is a very common name, whose carriers are well represented in many professions. If this is the case, then we can no longer refer to the effect of latent egoism.

Some researchers have shown somewhat greater restraint in their assessments of the connection between a person's name and his destiny. In 1984, psychologist Debra Crisp and her colleagues discovered that while more traditional names are more likely to be sympathetic, they have no effect on a person's academic achievement. In 2012, psychologists Hui Bai and Kathleen Briggs concluded that “the first letter of a name can only have an unconscious effect, if any, at best.” Although a person's name can influence their thinking on an unconscious level, its impact on decision-making is very limited. The results of subsequent studies also questioned the relationship between name and longevity, success, choice of profession, place of residence and spouse,

Meanwhile, no one claims that the name has no effect on a person: perhaps its effect just needs to be correctly interpreted. In 2004, economists Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan compiled 5,000 resumes in response to job ads posted in newspapers in Chicago and Boston. Using birth certificates issued from 1974 to 1979, Bertrand and Mullainathan worked out which names are most common in one race and least common in another, thus creating a list of "white names" (such as Emily Walsh and Greg Baker) and "black names" (such as Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones). They also created two types of candidates: highly qualified candidates with extensive work experience and an impressive resume. and low-skilled candidates with obvious educational and track record gaps. Economists sent two resumes from each group to all employers - one was from a person with a “black name”, the other was from a person with a “white” (that is, in the end, four resumes were submitted to each employer). The researchers found that candidates with "white names" received twice as many responses as candidates with "black names", and that the advantage of a "white name" resume was equivalent to about eight years of work experience. On average, employers responded to one in ten “white” resume compared to one in fifteen “black” resume. Thus, our names contain information about ourselves and our origins. Economists sent two resumes from each group to all employers - one was from a person with a “black name”, the other was from a person with a “white” (that is, in the end, four resumes were submitted to each employer). The researchers found that candidates with "white names" received twice as many responses as candidates with "black names", and that the advantage of a "white name" resume was equivalent to about eight years of work experience. On average, employers responded to one in ten “white” resume compared to one in fifteen “black” resume. Thus, our names contain information about ourselves and our origins. Economists sent two resumes from each group to all employers - one was from a person with a “black name”, the other was from a person with a “white” (that is, in the end, four resumes were submitted to each employer). The researchers found that candidates with "white names" received twice as many responses as candidates with "black names", and that the advantage of a "white name" resume was equivalent to about eight years of work experience. On average, employers responded to one in ten “white” resume compared to one in fifteen “black” resume. Thus, our names contain information about ourselves and our origins. The researchers found that candidates with "white names" received twice as many responses as candidates with "black names", and that the advantage of a "white name" resume was equivalent to about eight years of work experience. On average, employers responded to one in ten “white” resume compared to one in fifteen “black” resume. Thus, our names contain information about ourselves and our origins. The researchers found that candidates with "white names" received twice as many responses as candidates with "black names", and that the advantage of a "white name" resume was equivalent to about eight years of work experience. On average, employers responded to one in ten “white” resume compared to one in fifteen “black” resume. Thus, our names contain information about ourselves and our origins.

These findings have also been confirmed around the world. The authors of one Swedish study compared immigrants who changed their Slavic, Asian, or African names, such as Kovatsevich or Mohammed, to more neutral or traditionally Swedish names, such as Lindbergh or Johnson. Economists Mahmood Arai and Peter Skogman Thoursie found that such a name change significantly increased the income of immigrants: people with new names earned on average 26% more than those who chose to keep their old names.

The impact of name cues - that is, what a name can tell others about race, religion, social circle, and socioeconomic background - most likely begins long before a person joins a busy population. In a study conducted at a Florida school from 1994 to 2001, economist David Figlio proved that a child's name influences how his teacher will treat him, and that differences in attitudes in turn are reflected in the child's assessments. Children with names associated with low socioeconomic status or dark skin color received far less attention from teachers, further confirming the findings of Bertrand and Mullainathan. Unsurprisingly, these children later performed lower compared to children. whose names were associated with higher status and fair skin. Filho found that, for example, "a boy named Damarcus will, on average, perform worse in math and reading than his brother named Duane, but Damarcus will perform better than his brother named Dakwan." In turn, students with Asian names receive more attention from teachers, so they are much more likely to become participants in programs to help gifted children.

Economists Steven Levitt and Roland Fryer attempted to study the changes in the list of names given to black children in the United States from the 1970s to the early 2000s. They found that overtly "black" names over time developed into an extremely reliable signal of a person's socioeconomic status, and this status in turn influenced the child's quality of life. It turns out that we can establish a connection between a person's name and his fate, and this confirms the conclusions made in 1948 by scientists at Harvard. However, when Levitt and Fryer evaluated the child's parentage, the effect of the name was completely ruled out, since it is not the intrinsic characteristics of the name itself that influence the child's perspective. As Simonson writes, "a name can tell a lot about who you are."

In a 1948 study, most of the unusual names were surnames that became first names - this was fairly common among the upper classes of society at the time. These names also served as a signal, but this time they were a signal of the privilege of their bearers: perhaps the latter believed that they did not need to make an effort in order to succeed in life, or that they had the right to flaunt their neuroses, which under different circumstances they tried to hide. We hear a name, indirectly associate it with certain characteristics, and unconsciously use these associations to make judgments about the competence and suitability of its bearer. Therefore, the main question should be not what hides the name, but what signals this name sends to others.

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