There's no doubt that names have a great impact on who you become, but to what extent? We're usually named by our parents, so our names reflects their expectations which "indirectly reflects the personality and behavior expectations of the child," said James Bruning, a psychology professor at Ohio University. These expectations are carried outside the home by others in society, from school teachers to job interviewers. Depending on what traits the name is associated with, children as young as those in kindergarten identify with a "passive" or "active" personality.
For example, Bruning said, "Which of these two little boys do you think had parents with a more “active” set of expectations: Colt or Percival? Which of the two would more likely take music lessons?"
What about Anna and Zoey – who do you think would prefer coloring over playing outside?
According to the study, by third grade, the children's names almost exactly matched with the "expected behavior" associated with their name. This is not to say that every Percival is "passive" or that every Zoey prefers playing outside, but it is interesting how people – particularly children – may consciously or subconsciously exhibit certain traits that collectively contribute to society's connotative definition of the name. So, a boy named Champ, who may feel the societal expectation to be a winner (just like his name sounds) may subconsciously be drawn to playing definite lose-win sports, like former football cornerback Champ Bailey.
There's even a disproportionate chart of names that are commonly associated with their particular profession, noting that there are just as many guitarists named Richie and accountants named Maribel as we would stereotypically expect there to be in that particular line of work. In some cases, people are drawn to job titles that correlate with their name, such as Usain Bolt, the fastest runner ever or even Donald Trump as a television producer. This phenomenon is called "nominative determinism". Psychologist Dr. Brett Pelham dubs the entire case of name-letter attraction as "implicit egotism", which is the natural human preference to gravitate towards people, things and places that resemble oneself.
“If you notice even some fragment of your name, it catches your attention and creates a positive association for you,” said Pelham to Science Focus.
And speaking of positive association, common, easier-to-pronounce names are more likely to be favored – especially if the last name is closer to the beginning of the alphabet. The Economics of Education Review published a study that analyzed the relationship between the last names of 90,000 Czech students and their admission chances into competitive colleges. The researchers found that in many cases, students with last names closer to the beginning of the alphabet were more likely to be admitted to the college even if they had lower test scores than their counterparts with last names starting with letters near the end of the alphabet.
What's worse is that an uncommon name – particularly one that's not "white-sounding" – may be likely to land a kid in juvenile detention, as suggested by a 2009 Shippensburg University study. Researchers noted that regardless of race, kids with unusual, unpopular names "may be more prone to crime because they are treated differently by their peers, making it more difficult for them to form relationships," reports Business Insider. Boys with "girl's names" have a greater risk of being suspended from school, according to a 2005 study. On the other hand, another study found that women with masculine or gender-neutral names like Cameron, Jan or Lesile may find success in male-dominated fields like engineering and law.
An American Economic Association study confirms that there's a preference for white-sounding names when it comes to job interviews.
"White-sounding names like Emily Walsh and Greg Baker got nearly 50 percent more callbacks than candidates with black-sounding names like Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones," reports Business Insider. Researchers found that a white-sounding name constituted as much as eight years of work experience, even if the candidate lacked solid work history. This subtle discrimination is a huge drawback for "ethnic-sounding" names which could be different for every country. Even in the melting pot nation of U.S., a name is considered ethnic-sounding if it has any cultural ties, whether it's from the Latin America, the African continent, the Middle East or the Asias, boomeranging across Europe and back to the Americas.
Famous Indian-American individuals, including "actress and comedian Mindy Kaling (born Vera Chokalingam)... politician Bobby Jindal (Piyush Jindal at birth) and Canadian-Indian Bollywood actress Sunny Leone (formerly Karenjit Kaur Vohra) all changed their birth names in part to better their career prospects," reports BBC. Had they kept their birth names and applied for a job in the mathematics or science sector, they might have been hired on the spot due to the stereotypical assumption that "Asians are good at math," notes Science Focus.
Despite all the advancements American society has made diversity wise, people are still judging others, playing with their future and affecting their shot at success just because of their name.
So, what future does your name hold?