What’s in a name?

By Bystander

A study carried out in the US a couple of years ago suggests that the names our parents inflict on us may colour the way other people perceive our social status and career potential. 

Researchers asked a number of undergraduates to predict the future success of students with a range of forenames, using a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the most successful). The researchers reported that the highest scores went to Katherine (7.42) and Samuel (7.20). At the bottom end of the scale, Amber (5.74) ranked lowest among girls’ names and Travis (5.55) was overall lowest.

I doubt whether your parents’ choice of a name can influence your personality, intelligence or abilities. But this study suggests that your progress through life could be either helped or hindered by teachers, employers and others who prejudicially link your forename to a specific socioeconomic and educational standing.

(I know from personal experience that it is easy to develop irrational prejudices against particular names. In my youth I encountered a couple of jezebels called Judy and, for years, I did not feel able to trust any girl with that name. The brash, scheming and murderous character of the biblical Judith did not help.)

However, although the study makes clear that people can be biased against particular forenames, the research cohort size, a mere 89, is inadequate for drawing conclusions about any specific forenames.

And, although I have not seen the full list of names the subjects were asked to rate, I do know that they included Travis, Briana and Dakota. My own prejudices about such forenames suggest that the US study’s findings cannot be extrapolated to cover the UK.

I hope I am right, because I happen to have a delightfully feisty and bright two-year-old granddaughter whose parents decided to call her Amber.

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