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In five studies, we found that people like their names enough to unconsciously pursue consciously avoided outcomes that resemble their names. Baseball players avoid strikeouts, but players whose names begin with the strikeout-signifying letter K strike out more than others (Study 1). All students want As, but students whose names begin with letters associated with poorer performance (C and D) achieve lower grade point averages (GPAs) than do students whose names begin with A and B (Study 2), especially if they like their initials (Study 3). Because lower GPAs lead to lesser graduate schools, students whose names begin with the letters C and D attend lower-ranked law schools than students whose names begin with A and B (Study 4). Finally, in an experimental study, we manipulated congruence between participants' initials and the labels of prizes and found that participants solve fewer anagrams when a consolation prize shares their first initial than when it does not (Study 5). These findings provide striking evidence that unconsciously desiring negative name-resembling performance outcomes can insidiously undermine the more conscious pursuit of positive outcomes.
Nelson, L. D., & Simmons, J. P. (2007). Moniker Maladies When Names Sabotage Success. Psychological Science, 18 (12), 1106-1112. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.02032.x
Date Posted: 27 November 2017
This document has been peer reviewed.