What's in a name when it comes to attraction?
October 4, 2011 12:24 AM   Subscribe

A few years ago I heard a story on NPR about research that found people are attracted to others whose names are similar to their own, like "Fred Garrett" might find himself attracted to "Margaret Johnson" because the "garet" in "Margaret" is similar to "Garrett." I've searched for it to no avail. Does this ring a bell? Anybody?
posted by wsg to Human Relations (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Try googling "implicit egotism." Didn't find anything from NPR, but maybe this from Psychology Today is similar?
posted by Cortes at 12:30 AM on October 4, 2011

I don't have the book on me, but this is mentioned in David Brooks's "The Social Animal"
posted by sparrow89 at 12:52 AM on October 4, 2011

I remember hearing some anecdotal statistics on this during either a Radiolab episode or an episode of This American Life. The context eludes me but the examples given were along the lines of "George is choosing between the job offers in Miami and Atlanta, he knows that the job in Miami makes more sense but he chooses the job in Atlanta. Because his name is George and Atlanta is in Georgia." Then they gave statistics on the number of George's that live in Georgia, the number of Julian's married to Julias and so on.

Actually, I'm pretty sure it was Radiolab because whoever was telling the story then went back two or three generations in his own family to find a couple that had (virtually) the same name. (And I seem to recall it being Jad Abumrad telling that particular part of the story.)
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 6:20 AM on October 4, 2011

It's mentioned in "59 SECONDS" by Richard Wiseman. It is sometimes called "Name letter effect", see here too.
The main reference provided in the book is "Pelham, B. W., Mirenberg, M. C., & Jones, J. K. (2002). Why Susie sells seashells by the seashore: Implicit egotism and major life decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 469-487." Abstract here.
posted by McSly at 8:05 AM on October 4, 2011

The term I'm familiar with for this phenomenon is "nominative determinism", but intensive googling has failed to turn up the NPR link you're hoping to find. . . .
posted by muhonnin at 9:34 AM on October 4, 2011

The Social Animal cites a study that found "limerence" between people's names and their life choices. Specifically things like Dennis's becoming Dentists and George's moving to Georgia.

He cites "Why Susie Sell Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decision"
posted by jander03 at 1:23 PM on October 4, 2011

I'm fairly certain Radiolab specifically mentioned it in the context of career choice. For example, if your name is Bob Teeth you are more likely to be a dentist*. I can't recall the episode but it's likely to be in the "Choice" episode since there was lots of exploration of influences on free will.

*Or if you quickly scan the other answers you are likely to unconsciously choose the same profession example as the person above you?
posted by tinamonster at 10:48 PM on October 4, 2011

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