Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life? (3 ways)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life?” and explore the process of choosing a baby’s name, its significance and its impact on the life and personality of the baby to help understand the answer. 

Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life?

Yes, a baby’s name could affect its chances in life. A baby’s name could affect its chances in life in the following 3 ways –

  • A baby’s name can influence their personality, perception, and physical appearance.
  • A baby’s name can have social implications.
  • A baby’s name can impact their mental health and consequently their performance in life. 

What are these 3 ways a baby’s name can affect its chances in life?

A baby’s name can influence their personality, perception, and physical appearance.

Names, according to social scientists, have a Dorian Gray effect, altering personality, perception, and even physical appearance. The protagonist in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray never ages, but his painting does, becoming a devastated canvas as a result of his life of excess. 

The “Dorian Gray effect,” named after the character, is a psychological term that alludes to how internal characteristics such as personality or  self-perception impact physique.

Our physical characteristics influence how others see us, which influences how we feel and see ourselves, and so on. Internals and externals, psychologists believe, have a back-and-forth dynamic that moulds us.

Researchers from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University recently decided to see if prejudices and labels had a Dorian Gray influence on physical appearance as well. 

They sought to see if a person’s birth name—the first label a person receives that is unrelated to physical appearance—has an influence on subsequent physically. Previous research has indicated that a baby’s appearance has minimal bearing on the name selected. 

A baby’s name can have social implications.

In February, they reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “Our given name is our very first social tagging.” “Each name has qualities, behaviours, and a physical appearance linked with it, and as a result, it has a meaning and a common schema throughout a culture.”

The researchers theorised that this early label categorises all persons with the same name in such a way that others may match a name to face based on their expectations of how someone with that moniker will seem. To put it another way, name preconceptions are physically manifested in facial appearance.

Of course, this implies shared social coding—the researchers aren’t suggesting that anybody, anywhere, with no cultural familiarity could accomplish it. 

The researchers did, however, show that when individuals and even robots grasped local social cues, they could match faces to culturally common names of strangers in photographs to a statistically significant degree.

The study team discovered that both people and computers could choose the appropriate name for a given face with greater accuracy than would occur by chance in eight distinct trials across two nations. 

That suggests that popular perceptions of how a person with a particular face would seem were true—there existed a “proper” moniker for a particular face type. The researchers say that “each name is related with a character, habits, and a face look.”

In the first experiment, a panel was shown images of Israeli young adults, each with four phoney names (all prevalent in Israel) and one true one. 

The participants were able to correctly guess the genuine name 28% of the time, which is much higher than the random guessing rate of 20%. Dan appeared to be dressed as a Dan should.

The researchers used French persons and names to replicate the findings in France. They explored if some names were just more “pickable” in future tests, but found that this was not the case. 

Controls for age and ethnicity verified that these characteristics were not influencing people’s ability to estimate accurately.

Face and name matching by computers were also fairly accurate, implying that face-typing is a thing. The researchers used machine learning to train a computer using a database of over 100,000 photos taken from a French social networking site. 

After familiarising itself with the data, the algorithm could more than half of the time distinguish between two alternative names for each given face. Computers were also utilised to figure out which portions of the face were best for matching names. 

The eyes and surrounding region, which are utilised to produce voluntary expressions, were discovered to be far more beneficial than the margins. According to the study, face-name typing works on several levels. 

People with certain names may “grow into” them by adapting expected behaviour, facial expressions, and features, and perceivers will also have certain expectations based on social coding because we have shared concepts of what names connote. 

For persons with the same name, the signals are manifested in an appearance, a face type. Let’s pretend your name is Rose. Acting feminine, smiling demurely, wearing dresses, and growing your hair long may be socially coded. 

This is probably unintentionally anticipated more of a flower-named Alexandra than of an Alexandra who goes by Alex, a name that is widespread for both boys and girls in the United States. 

Because of her name and how people see her, Alex may feel freer to defy gender standards and vice versa, and she’ll probably be less flowery than Rose.

The researchers came to the conclusion that monikers are a type of self-fulfilling prophecy: once a baby is given a name, the youngster may grow up to be an adult who looks and acts like the name.

Over the last 70 years, experts have attempted to determine the impact of having an uncommon name on an individual. Our identity is said to be established in part by how we are regarded by others – a notion known as the “looking-glass self” by psychologists – and our name has the ability to colour our interactions with society. 

A baby’s name can impact their mental health and consequently their performance in life. 

Men with unusual first names were more likely to drop out of school and be lonely later in life early studies. According to one research, mental patients with uncommon names were more distressed.

However, more recent research has produced a mixed picture. According to Richard Zweigenhaft, a psychologist at Guilford College in the United States, affluent Americans with unusual names are more likely to appear in Who’s Who. 

He discovered no consistent negative consequences of having an uncommon name, although he did point out that both popular and odd names are occasionally thought attractive.

Children with uncommon names, according to Conley, a sociologist at New York University, may develop impulse control as a result of being teased or being used to others asking about their names. They gain from that experience by learning to regulate their emotions or urges, which is, of course, a valuable skill for success.

However, he claims that the impact of a name on its bearer seldom exceeds the impact of being raised by parents who would pick such a name.

Gregory Clark, the economist behind the book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility, comes to a similar conclusion. 

Although Clark’s study is mostly focused on surnames, he has also looked at first names, especially the names of 14,449 freshman students at the prestigious University of Oxford from 2008 to 2013.

He computed the likelihood, relative to the average, that a person with a certain name would go to Oxford by comparing the incidence of first names in the Oxford sample with the incidence of first names in the general population (of the same age).

He points out that there are more than three times as many Eleanors at Oxford as one might anticipate, given the popularity of that first name among females in general, and that Peters, Simons, and Annas aren’t far behind. 

In contrast, there are less than a third of the predicted number of Jades, and even fewer Paiges and Shannons. Eleanor is 100 times more likely than Jade to attend Oxford.

He points out that there are more than three times as many Eleanors at Oxford as one might anticipate, given the popularity of that first name among females in general, and that Peters, Simons, and Annas aren’t far behind. 

In contrast, there are less than a third of the predicted number of Jades, and even fewer Paiges and Shannons. Eleanor is 100 times more likely than Jade to attend Oxford.

However, Clark claims that there is no proof that the names themselves are producing such a large disparity, rather than the other variables they reflect. Various names are popular among various socioeconomic classes, and these groups have varying possibilities and objectives.

He explains, “That’s something that’s evolved in modern England that didn’t exist about 1800.” When he repeated his research, this time focusing on students attending Oxford and Cambridge in the early 1800s, he discovered a far weaker link between names and university attendance. 

Until recently, first names were not the social signifiers that they are now. Since then, there has been a trend for odd, even unique names. According to Clark, half of all English males had four first names before 1800. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, just 7% of English infant boys 

had the top four names (Harry, Oliver, Jack, and Charlie) in 2012. (and the picture was much the same in Wales).

In the United States, 5% of parents picked a name for their kid that was not among the top 1,000 names in 1950. In 2012, that proportion had risen to 27%.

It was normal practice in the 18th century for parents to name numerous children the same name, for example, two Johns for separate grandfathers. Parents are increasingly looking for names with unusual spellings or names with unusual names.

As baby names become more of a personal preference than a matter of tradition, they tell more about the individuals who make them.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life?” and reviewed the process of choosing a baby’s name, its significance and its impact on the life and personality of the baby to help determine if a baby’s name affects its chances in life. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Kremer, W. Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life? (2014, April 11). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26634477#:~:text=Early%20studies%20found%20that%20men,tended%20to%20be%20more%20disturbed.

Bryner, J. Good or Bad, Baby Names Have Long-lasting Effects. (2010, June 13). Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/6569-good-bad-baby-names-long-lasting-effects.html

Molloy, S. Your baby’s unique name might ruin its life. (2017, May 12). Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2017/05/12/your-babys-unique-name-might-ruin-its-life/

Litman, M. Will An Unusual Baby Name Affect Your Child’s Chances In Life? (2014, June 15). Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/baby-names_b_5153101

Gillett, R. 15 ways your child’s name sets them up for success – or failure. (2016, September 2). Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/what-you-name-your-kids-will-affect-their-success-2016-9

Goudreau, J. 13 surprising ways your name affects your success. (2015, August 5). Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/how-your-name-affects-your-success-2015-8

Rochman, B. Baby Name Game: How a Name Can Affect Your Child’s Future. (2011, December 2). Retrieved from https://healthland.time.com/2011/12/02/how-baby-names-affect-your-childs-future/

Vellai, M. Mother names baby Lucifer, sparks a debate about the importance of baby names. (2022, January 21). Retrieved from https://www.capetownetc.com/world/mother-names-baby-lucifer-sparks-a-debate-about-the-importance-of-baby-names/

Thompson, C. The Science of Baby-Name Trends. (2019, December 28). Retrieved from https://daily.jstor.org/science-baby-names/

Livni, E. & Werber, C. The name you’re given as a child might affect the shape of your face. (2017, August 10). Retrieved from https://qz.com/1050340/the-name-youre-given-as-a-child-can-shape-your-face-as-an-adult/

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