The Name Game: Can Your Name Affect Your Personality?

by ModernMom Staff

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Image source: iStockPhotos

It's a universal truth - there is no sweeter sound in all of creation than one's own name. Unless of course, it isn't.

Tom, Dick or Harry; Peter, Paul or Mary; your name is your identity. It distinguishes you from some people and binds you to others. To you, you are unique. 

But did you know that your name and your personality might be related? So says Lewis Lipsitt, professor emeritus of psychology at Brown University, who believes that the way parents choose their child's name is related to their genes. 

For example, adventurous parents will choose adventurous names. This means the choice of name actually signals the underlying genes of the child.

Knowing that info, you might be tempted to game the system and name your son something like Max Power. But you should probably do your best to pick a name that matches your child's personality. If you impose a role on your child with his or her name, they may feel pressured to live up to its aspirations. 

While this might sound a little far-fetched, it does underscore something truly important: You should be comfortable with your own name. 

If your child's name doesn't line up with his self-image, he will very likely be unhappy. Imagine being a "Biff" on the chess club or a "Cyril" trying out for the football team or worst of all, "Bertha" the Ballerina.

To a great extent, having a positive self-image is linked to how you view your name.

Ron Taffel, the author of Nurturing Good Children Now, says that the view of one's name is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. If your kids don't like their name, they probably don't feel great about themselves either.

There is also a darker side to all this. Even in today's society, people are still prejudiced against names that evoke certain cultural or economic backgrounds.

Marianne Bertrand, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, conducted an experiment where she sent fictitious resumes to various employers in Chicago. The catch? She kept the resumes identical except for the names. Some were given names that are considered very "white" such as Brendan, others were given names that are common in African American communities such as Jamal and LaKeisha.

The culturally white names received twice the number of callbacks that the African American names received.

But there's still hope for humanity. When another researcher repeated the experiment and added photos to the names, the name was found to have no effect on the perception of the candidate. Roland Fryer of Harvard University even found that names had no effect on success given that the people came from the same background.

At the end of the day, what you decide to name your child isn't going to make or break their chances in life. 

The most important thing is raising confident children with a positive self-image. If you're comfortable with yourself, you'll be happy with your name.

Heck, Frank Zappa named his kids Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin - and they all turned out just fine.

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