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What's in a Name? Names can Determine a Person's Success and Attractiveness

Update Date: Sep 17, 2012 09:17 AM EDT

Shakespeare may have had it wrong. A rose by any other name may have lessened it's attractiveness. What if it was called thorn flower? Or blood petal? Or what is a botanist with a fondness for irony thought it would be funny to throw flower enthusiast off it's scent with a name like Hobo's Breath?

A name, according to scientific and social validation, can say a lot about a person. Though many African-American parents desire to name their children something unique (even going so far as to actually name their child 'Unique') often fuse names to meet this standard; titles like Rasshida, Laktoya, Alezea, and Fearce (all of which are very real) can hurt a child's reputation and potential success even before they learn how to pronounce it.

Employers and school officials before meeting their hires and students often play the guessing game of what nationality/ethnicity/race, gender, and personality based solely on their first and last names.

A 4th grade school teacher from P.S. 105 in the Bronx who wished to remain anonymous freely admitted that she judges on how problematic a child will be just by looking at her roster before the school year begins, 

"Sometimes I tend to associate a name with a favorite or problem student of the past and tend to judge new students with the same name similarly....for instance I have come to love Emilys and am weary of Trayshawns. [Trayshawn] is more popular than you think, though spelling always differs," she told Counsel&Heal. 

Studies have shown that people with middle names are considered more attractive than those without, however too many middle names can plunge that persons perceived attractiveness straight down the toilet.

Other studies illustrate that women with names ending with a vowel are often perceived by men to be more physically attractive (Victoria, Anastasia, Katerina, etc.) while names that appear too feminine can negatively affect how smart they are believed to be in professional sectors. 

 Additionally , women tend to find people with shorter names such as John, Matt, Mark and Joe more attractive. However, Men are seen as showing a slight preference for women with longer, more flowing names such as Chantellea, while those with shorter names are seen as being less alluring, even masculine.

A study by the University of Florida compared the names Alexa(e)s and Isabella for popularity and socail as well as professional appeal. While both were gauged as generally attractive by the opposite sex, a person with the name Alex was seen as being more proficient in the fields of math and science than her counterpart.

"There are plenty of exceptions but, on average, people treat Isabellas differently to Alexes," commented David Figlio, professor of economics at the University of Florida and the author of the report told The Guardian . "Girls with feminine names were often typecast."

Figlio pointed to the controversy that arose over the first talking Barbie's phrase, 'math is hard'.

'It is a stereotype, and girls with particularly feminine names may feel more pressure to avoid technical subjects,' he said. Not that they were any less capable.

UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian tested a host of names to see how attractive people found them. Some names immediately aroused images of success, others of popularity or kindness. On the whole, people judged to have more traditional names such as Rachel and Robert did extremely well in social or physical attractiveness.

More alternative names scored badly. Breeze, for example, was given 16 out of 100, while Christopher received full marks.

Similarly, names that sounded too ethnic were unpopular among social circles. However, interestingly enough, they were shown to be very attractive among teachers, scholarship benefactors, and college deans; a person with a name like Xiang, Drishya, or Barack may be smarter than Joe, Anna, or Mark.

'A name is part of an impression package,' said Mehrabian. 'Parents who make up bizarre names for their children are ignorant, arrogant or just foolish.'

Warning to all twilight fans: When you grow up and have children of your own, think twice before naming your daughter 'Reneseme.'

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