10 Ways Your Name Affects Your Life

UPDATED: March 11, 2016
PUBLISHED: March 11, 2016

If you’re a Jim, Mark or Tom, consider yourself lucky. Short, simple names are advantageous for men in the workplace. If you’re a woman named Sam, Taylor or Charlie, call yourself blessed, too—having a gender neutral name is a plus for women.

Whether you’re naming your child or just want to see how your name fares, check out these 10 facts and figures:

1. Keep that middle initial.

Using your middle initial makes people think you are more intellectual, according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. Essayists who used their middle initial in published works had better reviews of their writing quality when assessed by a group of students. Also, the study found that people associate a middle initial with a higher perceived social status.

Related: 7 Qualities of People with High Emotional Intelligence

2. Simple is better.

Easy pronunciation fares well in the job search. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found people higher up in the ranks are more likely to have simple first and last names. The reasoning: comfort. We prefer Smith over Takamura because we’re more at ease when we know how to pronounce something

3. Charlie, Sam and Taylor–rejoice!

For women, having a gender neutral name can be a positive. In fields dominated by men—such as engineering, technology, law and banking—having a gender neutral name is beneficial. In fact, a Clemson University study found that when a candidate changed her name from Sue to Cameron, she was three times more likely to become a judge.

4. Calling all Toms and Bobs.

Shorter names are more common for C-level execs, according to research gathered by LinkedIn. The top CEO names for men on LinkedIn are Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce and Fred. For women, full names instead of shortened ones are more common in CEO positions—Deborah, Sally, Debra, Cynthia and Carolyn hold the top five spots.

5. Ring the wedding bells.

You’re more likely to shack up with someone who has a name that resembles yours. A study conducted by researchers at West Point and Columbia University found that in romantic settings, people are “disproportionately” more likely to marry someone whose first or last name resemble their own—this is called implicit egotism.

6. Group feel.

If you’re a John and your group members’ names are Jesus, Jasmine and Jamal, you’re more likely to perform better. Researchers from the Wisconsin School of Business concluded that we prefer people who share our initials and in turn are more likely to produce more accurate work and better mediate conflicts.

Related: How to Exponentially Improve Your Performance

7. Disaster donations.

Believe it or not, we’re more likely to donate to natural disasters that share the same initial as our first name. A study published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making found that people who shared a first initial with the first initial of the hurricane were overrepresented in the donation pool.

8. Stuck on a career path? Choose wisely.

Another example of implicit egotism lurks in our career choices—according to a study from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, we are more likely to choose workplaces and careers with similar names to our own.

9. The résumé game.

A study from The American Economic Review found that having a more “white sounding” name, such as John Smith or Peter Walter, means someone in HR is more likely to contact you for an interview. Names perceived as white received 50 percent more call backs than those perceived as African American. 

10. Fear not—having a distinct name isn’t a lost cause.

One study completed by a sociologist at New York University found that children with unusual names might be better at controlling their impulses because of the years they spend dealing with people questioning the pronunciation. And, in today’s day and age, you’ll be much easier to find on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. That could be a plus, right?

Related: 10 Ways Successful People Stay Calm

Jamie Friedlander is a freelance writer based in Chicago and the former features editor of SUCCESS magazine. Her work has been published in The Cut, VICE, Inc., The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider, among other publications. When she's not writing, she can usually be found drinking matcha tea into excess, traveling somewhere new with her husband or surfing Etsy late into the night.