Are names important? To a remarkable extent, they are. Although we don’t choose our names, they are badges that contain information about our family, class, education, and ethnic origin. Research has shown that people make different assumptions about a boy called Tyrone than they do about a boy called Philip. While these assumptions can be wrong, they can still have a significant impact on the course and development of a person’s life. Names can have an unconscious impact on a person’s choices. According to some scientific research, there is a large number of dentists named Dennis, and lawyers named Lauren. This suggests that it is not an accident that Dr. Douglas Hart, Scarsdale, N.Y., has chosen cardiology, or that the Greathouse family in West Virginia owns a real estate firm. This has been true to a certain extent: The Romans used nomen est Omen, which means “name is destiny”.
Has the way that we name our children changed?
It has been in this country. It used to be that boys were given names from a tradition established over generations. This was not true for girls. However, there was a limited number of names that could be accepted, mostly restricted to saints. In recent decades, however, there has been an explosion in the number of names available. When John and Mary were the most popular American names, 80 percent of American baby parents chose from the 100 reborn baby nursery names . Today, less than half of the girls and 60 percent of the boys are given a top 200 name. A study showed that only 30 percent of African American girls who were born in California in the 1990s shared their names with anyone else.
What factors influence these choices?
Simple answer: taste. But taste is complex. Names are just as fashionable as clothes styles, music genres and haircuts. In 2010, none of the top five names for girls — Mary, Helen and Margaret — were ranked among the top 40. The leaders were Emma and Olivia. After the 1950 release of the musical Peter Pan, the name Wendy saw a surge in popularity. Brittany’s success in the 1990s was aided by the rise of Britney Spears. Recent years have seen the popularity of the names Isabella and Jacob as well as Cullen. This is due to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.
Does it make sense to have a well-known name?
People with common first names do better in situations where their name is all that is known. According to studies, a resume submitted with a name that is perceived as African-American (e.g. Lakesia Washington) gets less attention than a similar resume with a more “Caucasian”, such as Mary Ann Roberts. Recent Australian research found that people have a better perception of political candidates and coworkers whose names are easy to pronounce. Many parents see common names like Jane or Thomas as uncreative and boring in today’s age of individual expression. “For some parents picking out a baby‘s name is like choosing the perfect bookcase or outfit,” Nina Shen Rastogi, Slate.com writer, said. “It should convey refinement without snobbishness. It should also be unique without being declasse wacky. This is a delicate line to walk. Aiden, one the most beloved boy’s names in America over the past seven years, has lost its exclusivity which made it appealing to many parents.
What can we do to our names?
Research shows that people subconsciously gravitate to people and things that sound like their names. This phenomenon is called “implicitegotism” by psychologists. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, noted that his colleague Sigmund Fréud (German for joy) advocated the pleasure principle. Alfred Adler (“eagle”), the will to power and he (“young”), the “ideas of rebirth. In a controversial 2007 study, implicit egotism was cited as the reason students with names starting with C or D had lower grades than students with names that began with A or B. Students gravitate towards grades that reflect their beloved initials, the study found.
Our names are our destiny.
Although they have influence, “destiny” is a strong word. According to Dr. Martin Ford, a psychologist at George Mason University, names only have significant influence if that is all you know about the person. The name’s impact is diminished if the picture is added. The name’s impact is reduced to a minimum when you add information about your personality, motivation, or ability. Condoleezza Rice’s name may have been a hindrance, but her intelligence, talent, and drive made her a secretary of state. There are others, like Sue Yoo from Los Angeles who grew-up hearing people tell her that she was a lawyer and that it was her name. She is now an attorney. She says that her name “helped” me to decide to follow this path psychologically.