The Surprising Ways Your Name Influences Your Life

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Something is manipulating you, influencing everything from your choice of career to where you choose to live -- without your even knowing it. What could it be? Your name! Strange but true, your name can influence your behavior in surprising ways.


A video from PBS Digital Studios' BrainCraft Series breaks it down for us -- and it makes sense. Think of how many times in your life you write your name. Well, that repetition builds familiarity, and that familiarity causes you to prefer the letters in your name.

"The more we are exposed to something, like those letters," says science reporter Vanessa Hill, "the more we like them." It's called "implicit egotism" -- but scientists mean that in a nice way. It means we're attracted to things that remind us of ourselves.

People are disproportionately drawn to living in cities that resemble their names: Jacks live in Jacksonville, women named Louise live in St. Louis, Phillips live in Philadelphia. Or maybe it's that parents who live in those cities are more likely to name their children after their location?

"We're definitely drawn to things that resemble us, including people, places and even professions that share our names," agrees Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard. "For instance, you're more likely to open an email from a stranger if that stranger has the same first name as you."

Wattenberg says you're not necessarily destined to become a dentist if your name is Dennis, but you can see some patterns if you look at the whole population. "The biggest way names shape us is through other peoples' reactions," she says. "For example, studies have shown that kids' names can affect teachers' expectations of them as students, and even the grades and course recommendations the teachers give."

Yikes! Maybe if you have a tough class, you should change your name to your teacher's name? Or would that be too obvious?

More from The Stir: 20 Sexiest Names for Women & Men

At any rate, now I'm wondering how my name affects my behavior. I don't live anywhere near the Adriatic Sea, so maybe not that. I suppose the letter A is my favorite letter, even though it seems slightly silly to have a favorite letter. My boyfriend's name starts with an A.

Hmm, it's a funny idea that might make for a few minutes' entertaining dinner conversation. Give it some thought and see if you notice any coincidences between your name and the things, places, and people you're drawn to. 

Can you think of any ways your name may have influenced your behavior?


Image via tomertu/Shutterstock

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