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Do initials matter? Apparently, yes

The duo, who have studied names and linked them to performances, find that students whose names begin with 'C' or 'D' are less successful than those whose names begin with letters 'A' or 'B'.

world Updated: Nov 15, 2007 17:13 IST

Your initials matter. Or so say two researchers who studied names of management students and law grads and linked them to their performance.

Leif Nelson of the University of California at San Diego and Joseph Simmons of Yale University reviewed 15 years of grade point averages (GPAs) -- given as 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D' -- for MBA students graduating from a large private American university.

The duo found that students whose names began with 'C' or 'D' earned lower GPAs than students whose names began with 'A' or 'B'.

Students with the initial 'C' or 'D,' presumably because of an unconscious fondness for these letters, were slightly less successful at achieving their conscious academic goals, said the researchers, adding that being too fond of your name may thus have negative consequences as well.

Interestingly, students with the initial 'A' or 'B' did not perform better than students whose initials were grade irrelevant. Therefore, the researchers concluded, having initials that match hard-to-achieve positive outcomes may not necessarily cause an increase in performance.

When the researchers analysed law schools, they found that as the quality of schools declined, so did the proportion of lawyers with name initials 'A' and 'B'.

The researchers put these findings in the laboratory with an anagram test. The result confirmed that when people's initials match negative performance outcomes, performance suffers.

The results, which appear in the forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, provide striking evidence that unconscious wants can insidiously undermine conscious pursuits.

Earlier research has shown that names do matter -- Jack is more likely to move to Jacksonville and marry Jackie than is Philip who is more likely to move to Philadelphia and marry Phyllis.

Scientists call this phenomenon the "name-letter effect" and argue that it is influential enough to encourage the pursuit of name-resembling life outcomes and partners.