Wonder what’s in the name? Well, a lot, say scientists as they have hinted that our name can dictate our life choices. Psychologists have posited that the letters—particularly the first letter of our names—can influence decisions, including whom we marry and where we move. The effect is called “implicit egotism.”
In 2008, two Belgian researchers found that workers in their country were more likely to choose a workplace if the first letter of its name matched their own.
A commentary revisited the study with similar U.S. data and found that the Belgians got the cause and effect exactly backwards. And that might make us more skeptical about the effects of implicit egotism.
“Walt Disney worked for a company starting with D not because of an unconscious attraction to that letter,” wrote University of Pennsylvania associate professor Uri Simonsohn, “but because he so christened it.”
But letter preference is more likely to influence decisions about which you are “indifferent or ignorant”—said, choosing a wine or even a mutual fund you know nothing about.
“Not that it makes no difference—but the differences it makes in really big decisions are probably slim,” continued Simonsohn.
There, the first letter of the organization’s name is but “one unit of difference.” When you’re thinking about where to work or whom to marry, “there are thousands of units to consider.”
A commentary published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.