February 23, 2012
A new study may make parents think twice about what to name their future children: Researchers have found that people whose names are easy to pronounce have a clear advantage in the workplace.
The study, authored by researchers Simon Laham of the University of Melbourne, Adam Alter of the New York University Stern School of Business, and Peter Koval of the University of Leuven, Belgium, was published online in December in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. It included names from Anglo, Asian, Western and Eastern European backgrounds and found that people with easy-to-pronounce names were more likely to receive job promotions.
The academics analyzed the first and last names of 500 lawyers in the United States, and determined that the ones whose names were easily pronounceable had advanced faster and held more senior positions. In addition, the study found that in a mock election, political candidates whose names were easy to pronounce were more likely to win than candidates whose names were not so easily pronounceable.
"Independently of all those other features of the name, the mere ease of pronunciation is enough to drive outcomes," Alter told AOL Jobs. "There's sort of a warm glow associated with things that are easy to process."
The researchers pointed out, however, that the name bias is related to pronunciation, rather than "unusualness." Alter noted that Barack Obama, for example, is certainly an unusual name, but is not difficult to say.
As reported by Medical News Today, Laham noted that the study is significant because it suggests that subtle discrimination exists in the workplace. "Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others," he said.
Other studies, however, suggest that the name bias is not related to pronunciation but to ethnicity. As WTOP reported, a study by University of Toronto researchers Philip Oreopoulos and Diane Dechief found that people with English-sounding names who submitted job applications in Toronto were 47 percent more likely to receive callbacks than those with Indian- or Chinese-sounding names.
The same sort of bias was found in a similar study that examined the effect of African-American-sounding names: University of Chicago researchers submitted 1,300 fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads with "white-sounding" names such as Emily Walsh or "African-American-sounding" names such as Lakisha Washington. The results of the study indicated that applicants with the "white-sounding" names were 50 percent more likely to get callbacks than those with the "African-American-sounding" names.
Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman
"Easy to Pronounce Names Help Win Friends and Influence People," medicalnewstoday.com, February 13, 2012, Catharine Paddock
"People With Easy-to-Pronounce Names More Likely to Succeed, Study Says," jobs.aol.com, February 9, 2012, Claire Gordon
"What's in a Name? Perhaps a Promotion? Or Discrimination?" wtop.com, February 13, 2012, Alleson Knox