Simple Names Are Better When It Comes To Getting Ahead

Photo by James L. Stanfield


Kids learn early on that an unusual name can be a serious liability, one with the power to make you the butt of jokes on the playground or in the school lunchroom.  But it turns out that what your parents choose to call you may influence your life long after grade school is over.  A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people with simple names were more likely to be promoted at work than those with names that were more difficult to say.

It isn’t just the Johns, Janes, and Davids who are getting ahead though.  Simon Laham, the study’s lead author explained: “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.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the professional group that most strongly demonstrated this finding was attorneys.  Those of us blessed, or cursed, with an uncommon name need not worry too much, however.  Exceptions to the rule abound – starting with the current Commander in Chief.

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Alyson Foster works in the National Geographic Library where she purchases books for the Library’s collection and assists NG staff with finding research materials.