Human Journey

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.

For all the latest science news, check out the National Geographic’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.

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.
  • Elizabeth L.

    Well, haven’t you considered why john, jane, or david have a higher correlation to receive the raise?? they’re called a common name for a reason, there are more of them in the world which leads to a higher probability of them getting picked for the promotion or in other ways succeeding; compared to the unique names (which means that there are already very few of them) will have less of a chance to get the raise because of how many there are in the population, not because of others or their own intelligence.

  • Nikhil Chandra

    Interesting find 🙂
    Shakespeare must be tossing and turning in his grave after reading this 😛 Now I wonder if “roses in any other name will smell as sweet”. Haha

  • Ashley

    I’ve noticed that I don’t have much of a identity or connection with my name. There is no sense of self because I share it with countless others, so even if some bad social interactions were avoided by having a common name, I would much rather been given a rarer name.

  • B

    I disagree. There are too many simple yet short names out there like Joe, Tim, Bill etc. Today’s world should have advanced long names to REALLY excel in life. Today, everyone is called this or that, it’s rather pathetic.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media