By Carolyn Ritter and Rebecca Scott
April 13, 2012
Having a simple, easy-to-pronounce name is more likely to win you friends and favor in the workplace, a study by Simon Laham at the University of Melbourne and Adam Alter at NYU’s Stern School of Business has found.
In the first study of its kind, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers analyzed how the pronunciation of names 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 favored for political office and job promotions; political candidates with easy-to-pronounce names were more likely to win a race; and 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 U.S. lawyers.
Lead author Laham says subtle biases 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 says.
Laham believes the results have 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,” he says. “Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others.”
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.