데니스Dennis는 덴버Denver의 덴티스트dentist(치과의사)이고, 로라Laura는 루이지애나Louisiana의
<논문 내용 요약>
대부분의 사람들이 긍정적인 연상을 자기자신에 대해 가지고 있기 때문에, 대부분의 사람들은 자기와 연결된 것(예를 들어 이름에 있는 글자)을 선호한다.
논문 저자들은 그러한 선호를 암묵적인 자기중심성향(implicit egotism)이라 부른다.
10종의 (심리학) 연구가 암묵적인 자기중심성향의 역할을 평가했는데, 두 가지 중요한 인생문제 의 결정, 즉 사는 곳의 선택과 직업의 선택에
1~5번 연구는 사람들이 자신들의 이름과 닮은 지역에 사는 경향이 있음을 보여준다.
6번 연구는 생일의 숫자에 대한 선호도 있음을 보여준다.
7~10번 연구는 사람들이 자신들의 이름과 닮은 직업을 선택하는 경향이 있음을 보여준다(예를 들어 데니스Dennis나 데니즈Denise 같은 이름을
지닌 사람은 덴티스트dentist(치과의사) 가운데 더 많이 보인다).
암묵적인 자기중심성향은 중요한 인생문제 결정에 영향을 미치는 것으로 보인다. 이러한 관념은 많은 합리적 선택 모델과 뚜렷하게 대비되며, 암묵적인 믿음에
대한 이해의 중요성을 입증한다.
Dennis the Denver dentist and Laura the Louisiana lawyer
Posted by Andrew on 5 August 2005, 12:35 am
Susan referred me to an article by Brett Pelham, Matthew Mirenberg, and John Jones,
called “Why Susie sells seashells by the seashore: implicit egotism and major life
decisions.” Here’s the abstract of the paper:
Because most people possess positive associations about themselves, most people
prefer things that are connected to the self (e.g., the letters in one’s name). The
authors refer to such preferences as implicit egotism. Ten studies assessed the role
of implicit egotism in 2 major life decisions: where people choose to live and what
people choose to do for a living. Studies 1–5 showed that people are
disproportionately likely to live in places whose names resemble their own first or
last names (e.g., people named Louis are disproportionately likely to live in St.
Louis). Study 6 extended this finding to birthday number preferences. People were
disproportionately likely to live in cities whose names began with their birthday
numbers (e.g., Two Harbors, MN). Studies 7–10 suggested that people
disproportionately choose careers whose labels resemble their names (e.g., people
named Dennis or Denise are overrepresented among dentists). Implicit egotism appears
to influence major life decisions. This idea stands in sharp contrast to many models
of rational choice and attests to the importance of understanding implicit
First off, I’m impressed that they did 10 different studies. Psychologists really
take their work seriously! Lots of interesting tidbits (see end of this entry for a
Some order-of-magnitude calculations
I’d like now to take the next step and estimate the prevalence of this ego-naming
phenomenon. Here are the data for female and male dentists and lawyers (for each
category, the count (with expected counts, based on independence of the 2-way table,
||434 (442.6) 1
Of the 1576 men in the study with names beginning with “Den,” an extra 17.3 (that’s
247-229.7) became dentists. That would suggest that the name effect changed the
career decisions of 17.3/1576=1.1% of these “Den” guys. But that’s an overestimate,
since the denominator should be much larger–it should be all the “Den” guys, not
just the dentists and lawyers.
According to the article, 0.415% of Americans in 1990 were named Dennis. Multiplying
by approx 150 million in the labor force yields 620,000 Dennises. Pelham et al.
report, “Taken together, the names Jerry and Walter have an average frequency of
0.416%, compared with a frequency of 0.415% for the name Dennis. Thus, if people
named Dennis are more likely than people named Jerry or Walter to work as dentists,
this would suggest that people named Dennis do, in fact, gravitate toward dentistry.
A nationwide search focusing on each of these specific first names revealed 482
dentists named Dennis, 257 dentists named Walter, and 270 dentists named Jerry.” If
we assume that 482-(257+270)/2=221 of these Dennises are “extra” dentists–choosing
the profession just based on their name–that gives 221/620000= .035% of Dennises
choosing their career using this rule.
How to estimate a total effect?
It’s an interesting example of conditional probability. If we accept the basic
results of the study–the authors are pretty thorough at handing potential
objections–if you meet a dentist named Dennis, it’s quite likely that he picked the
profession because of his name. But, an extremely low proportion of Dennises pick a
career based on the name.
But, then again, there are other D careers. Presumably there are first-letter
effects which are weaker than first-3-letter effects, but are still there. So,
Dennises could also become doctors, dogcatchers, etc. It would be interesting to set
up a simple model and try to estimate the total effect.
OK, now some more cool results from the Pelham et al. paper:
. . . whether people named George or Geoffrey (the two most common American first
names beginning with Geo) were disproportionately
likely to be published in the geosciences. We did not include
additional names in the list because there simply are no such usable names. We
consulted 1990 census data to identify the four European American male first names
that were most similar in overall frequency to these two target names (using an
expanded version of the procedure described in the supplemental portion of Study 7).
The control names for George were Daniel, Kenneth, Donald, and Mark. The control
names for Geoffrey were Pete, Randolph, Jonathon, and Bennie. . . . On the basis of
the observed frequencies for the eight control names, there should have been 65.5
geoscientists named George or Geoffrey in Study 8. The observed number was 93, or
about 42% more than the expected value.
Hardware store owners were about 80% more likely to have names beginning with the
letter H as compared with R. In contrast, roofers showed the reverse pattern. They
were about 70% more likely to have names beginning with R as compared with H.
Expected values dictated that 308.8 of the 45,908 women sampled should have resided
in cities named after Saints who happened to share their first names. The actual
number of women who showed this name–city matching effect was 445, which is 44%
greater than the chance value. On the basis of expected values, 3,476.0 out of
594,305 men should have lived in Saint cities bearing their first names. The actual
number of men who did so was 3,956, which is 14% greater than the chance value.
Just to repeat: this is me quoting the Pelham et al. paper; it’s not my own
P.S. See here for more on this matter (including a reference to the paper that shows
that people are disproportionately likely to marry others whose surnames begin with
the same letter as their own). And here is my calculation that estimates that
approximately 1% of Americans’ career choices are influenced by the sound of their
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