Tag Archives: popular

What’s in a name?

hello-my-name-is-stickerBy Erica Zaiser

According to the BBC, a recent survey carried out by parenting advice website Bounty.com found that nearly 50% of teachers in the UK thought they could predict the personalities of students before meeting them, just by looking at their names. Results from the poll suggest that teachers believe students with names like Alexander and Elizabeth are more likely to be smart, while students with names like Chelsea or Callum top the list for students predicted to behave poorly.

The idea that people associate names with certain personality traits is nothing new; across cultures many people give their children names that represent desirable qualities like strength, patience, or grace. In general, people with common and more desirable names are seen as more intelligent, healthy, and popular (Young, et al., 1993). Furthermore, name stereotypes are not limited to the classroom and are even found to impact voters’ preference for political candidates, although (thankfully) the relationship between a candidate’s name and receiving votes is no longer significant when would-be voters are presented with more information about the candidate (O’Sullivan et al., 2006).

One obvious reason for the link between personality and name is that perceptions of names act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, when a teacher assumes a student will perform well/poorly, that belief might influence the quality of teaching the student receives. However, the link between personality and names may be more complex than it appears. According to the name letter effect (NLE), just the first letter of your name can influence your preference for places, activities, and people. Furthermore, one study found that students with names starting with letters associated with poor performance (for example the lower mark of C’s and D’s in the American school system), actually performed worse than students with names starting with A or B (higher marks) (Nelson & Simmons, 2007). This, according to the researchers, is because students with C and D names have less aversion to the letters themselves. The theory is that we all have a subconscious preference for anything starting with the same first letter as our name. So, poor Callum may have it extra hard, having to overcome both his teacher’s negative first-impression and his subconscious love for a low-achieving grade.

square-eye Read more:  BBC article-  “Teachers Spot Trouble in a Name”

square-eyeNelson, L., Simons, J. P. (2007). Moniker Maladies: When Names Sabotage Success  Leif D. Nelson. Psychological Science, 18, 12. <br>

square-eyeO’Sullivan, C.S., Chen, A., Mohapatra, S., Sigelman, L., Lewis, L. (1988). Voting in Ignorance: The Politics of Smooth-Sounding Names. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 13.


square-eyeYoung, R. K., Kennedy, A. H., Newhouse, A., Browne, P., Theissen, D. (1993).  The Effects of Names on Perception of Intelligence, Popularity, and Competence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 23, 21.

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The entertainment value of human nature

800px-Video_CameraA natural human tendency is to form groups to fulfill our social needs, navigate a world full of obstacles and threats, and also provide us with a sense of identity and self-esteem. The latest season of CBS’s Big Brother, set to premier this Thursday, July 9, will exploit this innate proclivity. The show puts a dozen willing wannabes in a house under surveillance for approximately three months. Once a week the contestants vote to evict one member of the household until only two remain, when the formerly evicted contestants vote for a winner who will receive $500,000. This season the show will split the houseguests into three age-old high school cliques: “popular,” “athletes,” and “brains.” 
Cliques create a unique experience of power and dominance with highly specific intra-group stratification and provide a sense of identity and purpose for members (Adler & Adler, 2007). They have a strict code of membership (e.g., what one wears, how one acts) and are exclusive (e.g., members are not free to socialize with outsiders, initiation to the group is difficult to obtain). The show’s format already ensures that contestants form alliances in order to win and labeling these groups from the outset that already have stereotypes and expectancies associated with them only accelerates a process that would have occurred anyway with or without the cameras. While we’d all like to believe that cliques exist only in the cafeteria or on the playground they can be found in nearly any place where human beings interact.



CBS Big Brother


Meet the Cast of Big Brother 11


Preadolescent Clique Stratification and the Hierarchy of Identity


Teens Health: The Nature of Cliques

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