From Our 2012 Archives

John, Mary, Joe: Simpler Names May Help You Get Ahead

SATURDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The easier your name is to pronounce, the more likely you are to receive promotions at work and make friends, a new study suggests.

Using mock ballots, researchers from the University of Melbourne and New York University's Stern School of Business also found politicians with simple names are more likely to get elected.

"Research findings revealed that 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," study author Dr. Simon Laham, from the University of Melbourne, said in a news release from the university.

In conducting the study, researchers took a closer look at how names can influence first impressions and decision-making. They found evidence of a "name pronunciation effect," in which people with easily pronounced names are viewed more positively by others. They noted, however, that most people are not even aware of this bias.

For instance, in a field study of 500 U.S. attorneys those with easy to pronounce names rose up in their firm's ranks faster than their colleagues with more difficult names.

The name bias probably extends to other professions as well, according to study co-leader Adam Alter, from the Stern School of Business. "People simply aren't aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments," he explained in the news release.

The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, could have implications for how bias and discrimination are managed in America, the researchers suggested.

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

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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SOURCE: University of Melbourne, news release, Feb. 8, 2012