WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Nov. 15, 2007 -- Your name may help put you at the head of the class or
leave you in the strikeout column, a new study shows.
The researchers report that MBA students whose first or last names start
with the letters A or B tend to make better grades than those whose names start
with C or D.
What's more, Major League baseball players whose names begin with the letter
K strike out more often than those whose names don’t start with K, the letter
used to record strikeouts.
So say Leif Nelson, PhD, and Joseph Simmons, PhD, in December's edition of
Nelson works at the Rady School of Management at the University of
California at San Diego. Simmons works at Yale University's School of
Together, they studied the effect that certain initials have on certain
measurements of success.
They also found that law school applicants whose names began with A or B
were more likely to get into top-ranked law schools than those with other
What gives with the name game?
Nelson and Simmons suggest that people have a subtle bias toward the letters
in their monogram.
"For example," they write, "Toby is more likely to buy a Toyota,
move to Toronto, and marry Tonya than is Jack, who is more likely to buy a
Jaguar, move to Jacksonville, and marry Jackie."
So they reason that Christine may not find a C grade quite so bad as
To test the theory, the researchers presented online word puzzles to 225
people. Before tackling the puzzles, the researchers mentioned prizes for
success or consolation prizes for failures.
The prizes were labeled with a letter, such as "Prize X."
When their first names matched the initial on the consolation prize, they
solved fewer puzzles.
Of course, the researchers aren't suggesting that anyone judge a person by
There's no reason Kevin couldn't be a baseball star. And the theory doesn't
cover the whole alphabet, so William and Zena aren't doomed to bad grades.
SOURCE: Nelson, L. Psychological Science, December 2007.
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