Past studies have shown that a Dennis is most likely to be a dentist, an Andrew will probably marry an Andrea and a George probably lives in Georgia.
However, “implicit egotism” — a concept that posits the letters in peoples’ names often influence major life decisions — may not actually be real.
A recent study conducted by Wharton professor Uri Simonsohn shows this theory may be falsely correlated.
Simonsohn’s work — to be published in the upcoming issue of Psychological Science — looks specifically at research done in 2008 by researchers who examined data from one-third of the Belgian population and found that a high proportion works for a company that shares their initials.
Simonsohn, however, believes this correlation is a case of reverse causality and not an example of “implicit egotism.” “Henry Ford worked for Ford not because he really liked the letter F, but rather because he named the company after himself,” he said.
Implicit egotism is “telling us that we make super-important decisions based on nonconscious drives” Simonsohn said. “If you generalize that, it becomes a more important question.”
If people do make decisions based on their names, it could have implications for the branding of products.
Simonsohn examined political donation records from the 2004 elections, which include both the name of the donor and the name of the company that they work for.
An initial examination led Simonsohn to find an even larger effect than the Belgian researchers originally found — that more than 2.5 as many people as would be expected work for a company that shares their initials.
Despite these results, Simonsohn decided to examine the possibility of reverse causation. To do this, he discounted instances where the first three letters of a person’s last name and the name of their employer matched up, looking instead at instances where only the first letters matched.
When analyzed this way, the first three letters matched up 64 times more than expected, while the effect disappeared altogether for situations where only the first initials matched.
This occurs because many people work for companies that they started themselves or that were started by their family members, Simonsohn said.
He explained that he mainly conducted this study because he was curious. “If you find something that’s very cute, you should try to find some other less cute explanation.”
Simonsohn also conducted a survey and found that most psychology textbooks contain this concept of “implicit egotism.”
“This is a striking finding, and it’s repeated a lot, but it seems unlikely. And so I was just curious whether it was true,” Simonsohn said. “If it’s part of our textbooks and it’s wrong, then it deserves being corrected.”
Simonsohn has also done past research discounting “implicit egotism” in influencing what people do, who they marry and where they move to.Comments powered by Disqus
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