Is Nominative Determinism Real? Study Hints At Link Between Your Name And Life Choices

Is Nominative Determinism Real? Study Hints At Link Between Your Name And Life Choices

Can the first letter of your name predict your profession and the city you live in? If that were the case, I should probably be a magician living in Milan – which, regrettably, I’m not. But, according to a recent study, I may be the outlier here, and our names really might influence our life choices.

This is a phenomenon called nominative determinism – the idea that people tend to gravitate toward areas of work that fit their names. Examples of people with well-matched names and careers are numerous. For instance, weather presenter Sarah Blizzard, disaster management scholar Dr Bang, marine biologist Helen Scales, and nutrition and obesity researcher William Dietz.

Previous research has suggested that we show a preference for letters in our own names, and that this preference may affect our decisions, such as our choice of profession or the city in which we live. However, plenty of other work has questioned the reliability of the effect, which is why researchers at the University of Utah sought to investigate whether or not it exists in the real world.

“Nominative determinism would suggest that a person named Dennis is more likely to choose to be a dentist than, say, a lawyer, or that Dennis is more likely to choose to live in Denver than Cleveland,” they write in the study. To find out if this holds true, they used large language models trained on Common Crawl, Twitter, Google News, and Google Books to capture millions of occurrences of people’s names, their professions, and the cities they live in.

They ended up with 3,410 names from the US Social Security Administration’s publicly available dataset, 508 professions, and 14,856 cities. First names were favored to eliminate reverse causality (e.g. people with the last name Disney working at the Walt Disney Company) and because they are less likely to change throughout a person’s life.

After controlling for various factors, including gender, ethnicity, and the frequency of names and professions, the researchers report finding “consistent evidence of the relationship between people’s names and a preference for major life choices starting with the same letter as their first name.”

This nominative determinism effect was consistent over the decades of the 20th century, although the pattern was found to be different for men and women.

“While men show a consistent pattern of the nominative determinism effect across the decades for profession choices, women show a much lower effect in the early part of the 20th century, though as time progresses, the effect increases,” they write. This, the authors suggest, could reflect the increased freedom women were allowed in career selection as time went on.

The study is limited by the cross-sectional nature of the data, meaning it only provides a snapshot of nominative determinism. However, it does seem to add some credence to its existence. 

Perhaps it’s time to book the flight to Italy and look into enrolling in magic school.

The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Source link



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.