People with easy to pronounce names win friends and favour

February 8, 2012

( -- Having a simple, easy-to-pronounce name is more likely to win you friends and favour in the workplace, a study by Dr Simon Laham at the University of Melbourne and Dr Adam Alter at New York University Stern School of Business, has found.

In the first study of its kind, and published in the , researchers analysed how the pronunciation of can influence impression formation and decision-making.  In particular, they demonstrated “the name pronunciation effect,” which occurs when people with easy–to-pronounce names are evaluated more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names.

The study revealed that:

• People with more pronounceable names were more likely to be favoured for political office and job promotions

• Political candidates with easy-to-pronounce names were more likely to win a race than those without, based on a mock ballot study

• Attorneys with more pronounceable names rose more quickly to superior positions in their firm hierarchies, based on a field study of 500 first and last names of US lawyers

Lead author, Dr Simon Laham said subtle biases that we are not aware of affect our decisions and choices. “Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce,” he said.

Dr Adam Alter who conducted the law firm analysis said this effect probably also exists in other industries and in many everyday contexts. “People simply aren’t aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments,” Dr Alter said.

Dr Laham said the results had important implications for the management of bias and discrimination in our society.

“It’s important to appreciate the subtle biases that shape our choices and judgments about others. Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others,” he said.

Researchers conducted studies both in lab settings and in a natural environment using a range of names from Anglo, Asian, and Western and Eastern European backgrounds.

This research builds on Dr Alter’s earlier work, which suggests that financial stocks with simpler names tend to outperform similar stocks with complex names immediately after they appear on the market.

Explore further: If it's hard to say, it must be risky

Related Stories

If it's hard to say, it must be risky

February 20, 2009

We all have different criteria for what we consider risky. However, numerous studies have suggested that we tend to perceive familiar products and activities as being less risky and hazardous than unfamiliar ones.

How drugs get those tongue-twisting generic names

January 18, 2012

Oseltamivir. Esomeprazole. Trastuzumab. Where do drugs get those odd-sounding generic names? The answers are in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, ...

Recommended for you

Biologists trace how human innovation impacts tool evolution

November 24, 2015

Many animals exhibit learned behaviors, but humans are unique in their capacity to build on existing knowledge to make new innovations. Understanding the patterns of how new generations of tools emerged in prehistoric societies, ...

How experienced buyers can mitigate economic bubbles

November 19, 2015

(—Over the last decade, many people got a tough primer on the effects of economic bubbles, as the bursting of the 2007-2008 housing bubble sent shockwaves through most of the major world economies. But property ...

First Londoners were multi-ethnic mix: museum

November 23, 2015

A DNA analysis of four ancient Roman skeletons found in London shows the first inhabitants of the city were a multi-ethnic mix similar to contemporary Londoners, the Museum of London said on Monday.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 08, 2012
So "Barack Obama" (a name made up of rare phoneme combinations for English speakers) might improve his chances of reelection if he changed his first and second name to the familiar and easily pronounced names of "Ron" and "Paul".

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.